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NFL Playoff Scenarios: Buccaneers still mostly control their destiny

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers dropped to 8-6 with their loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, and they’re now just outside the NFC playoff picture.

The 8-6 Green Bay Packers sneaked ahead of them on a tiebreaker to grab the final wild card, as the standings look now, while the currently 7-5-1 Washington could also jump ahead with a win over the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football.

In theory, the Bucs could win their final two games and still find themselves outside the playoffs — if the Falcons win out and hold on to the NFC South lead, and either the Packers or Washington win out as well, that is.

If the Falcons lose either one of their next two games and the Bucs do not, the Bucs take the division lead based on the division record. Both teams face the Saints and Panthers. And even if that doesn’t happen, odds are either Washington or Green Bay drops a game over the next couple of weeks.

In fact, those odds are so great that the New York Times’ Upshot blog estimates the Bucs’ chances of making the playoffs at 96% if they win their final two games.

In other words: this Cowboys loss was unfortunate and it certainly hurt the Bucs’ playoff chances, but they’re still in it, and they still control their own destiny — more or less.

This is what the playoffs look like right now:


New England Patriots (12-2)

Oakland Raiders (11-3)

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5)

Houston Texans (8-6)

Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)

Miami Dolphins (9-5)

Just outside: Baltimore Ravens (8-6), Tennessee Titans (8-6), Denver Broncos (8-6)


Dallas Cowboys (12-2)

Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1)

Atlanta Falcons (9-5)

Detroit Lions (9-5)

New York Giants (10-4)

Washington (7-5-1)

Just outside: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6), Green Bay Packers (8-6)