The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 8-5, and as close to the NFL playoffs as they’ve been since 2008, when only four straight season-ending losses kept them out.
That said, they’re not overwhelmingly likely to actually make it to the postseason. Football Outsiders gives the Bucs a 55% chance of making the playoffs, the New York Times’ Upshot blog gives them a 57% chance, and FiveThirtyEight gives them a 54% chance. Those odds represent only small improvements over last week’s chances.
That could change with a win against the Dallas Cowboys tomorrow. While it’s probably the least important of the team’s remaining games, with division opponents coming up in the final two weeks of the season, beating the Cowboys would raise the Bucs’ chances to around 84%, per the Upshot blog.
That’s a really big jump, and it likely underestimates the Bucs’ actual chances of making it there if they beat the Cowboys. Because a win over the Cowboys wouldn’t just give them a valuable victory, it would also be an indication that the Bucs are actually a good team — and, in fact, one of the best teams in the NFL.
Because that’s what it means when you beat six straight teams, including three that are set to make the playoffs.