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DLT’s Wild and Crazy NFC Playoff Scenarios - Week 16

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NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucs suffered a tough loss on the road in Dallas but all is not the end of the world, folks. Thanks to a little help from their hated rivals, the Carolina Panthers, the Bucs are back in good shape in the NFC Playoff Picture.

Here’s how it all breaks down!

Current Playoff Standings

Untitled

Team W-L-T Div W-L-T Conf W-L-T SOV SOS Remaining Games
Team W-L-T Div W-L-T Conf W-L-T SOV SOS Remaining Games
Division Leaders
x- Cowboys 12-2 3-2 8-2 .414 .457 DET, atPHI
y-Seahawks 9-4-1 2-1-1 5-4-1 .452 .452 ARI, @SF
Falcons 9-5 3-1 7-3 .456 .485 atCAR, NO
Lions 9-5 3-2 7-3 .385 .436 atDAL, GB
Wildcards
Giants 10-4 3-1 7-3 .461 .490 atPHI, at WAS
Packers 8-6 3-1 6-4 .442 .510 MIN, atDet
In The Hunt
Buccaneers 8-6 3-1 6-4 .442 .505 atNO, CAR
Redskins 7-6-1 3-2 5-5 .439 .520 atCHI, NYG
Vikings 7-7 1-3 4-6 .485 .510 atGB, CHI
z-clinched home field, y-clinched division, x-clinched playoff spot

The Contenders

Dallas moved one step closer to securing the NFC East title and home field advantage through out the playoffs. Seattle clinched the NFC West title and moved back into the 2nd seed. However, Atlanta is still hot on their trail. The Giants are very close to securing a playoff berth while the Lions are in trouble in the NFC North with the hard charging Packers coming for them.

The Bucs, Redskins and Vikings are on the outside looking in, but for the Bucs, its only by the thinnest of margins.

What Happened Last Week

The Cardinals basically eliminated themselves by losing a shoot out with the Saints (take that as a lesson, Bucs). Dallas ended Tampa Bay’s 5 game winning streak while the Giants did the same to the Lions. The Packers narrowly escaped Chicago with a win while the Falcons feasted on the 49ers and the Redskins blew their chance at controlling their playoff fate with a loss to Carolina.

How Are The Bucs Looking

While the Bucs lost control of their playoff fate by losing in Dallas, Tampa Bay is not in bad shape. The loss hurt the Bucs’ tie-breaker scenarios with Green Bay. By Tampa Bay losing to Dallas and Green Bay sweeping Chicago, the Packers made up the Common Games disadvantage and pulled into a tie with Tampa Bay.

Here’s how it breaks down -

  1. Head-to-Head - Not applied as the teams did not face each other this season.
  2. Division - Not applied because the teams do not reside in the same division
  3. Conference Record - Tied. Both teams are 6-4
  4. Common Games - Tied. Both teams are 3-2 (note: ESPN lists the Bucs as winning this tie-breaker, we’ve confirmed that they are indeed wrong. In fact, on Sportscenter they are reflecting the playoff standings accurately but on their site it’s still wrong)
  5. Strength of Victory - Tied. Each team’s SOV is .442
  6. Strenght of Schedule - Green Bay has a slightly tougher SOS .510 to .505 - it is by the narrowest of margins, Seattle’s tie gives the Pack a half game edge.

So that is why Green Bay has jumped the Bucs. With that said, the Bucs are still in great shape if two things happen this week -

  1. They beat the Saints
  2. Dallas beats Detroit.

If these two things happen, the Bucs will control their playoff fate heading into Week 17, as the Lions will get their 6th loss and the Detroit-Green Bay game becomes a “play-in” game. One of those teams will take the 7th loss.

In addition, if the Bucs were to lose to the Panthers in the season finale and both teams finish 9-7, the Bucs currently own the tie-breaker on the Lions (if they beat the Saints and the Lions lose to Dallas), in that scenario like the Packers, the Bucs are tied with the Lions in conference record and common games but the Bucs strength of victory is significantly stronger than Detroit’s.

NFC South Championship Hopes

This is unchanged. It’s pretty simple here. The Bucs need to finish their last two games better than the Falcons to win the NFC South. So The Bucs can go 2-0 and the Falcons 1-1, the Bucs win the division or if the Bucs go 1-1 and the Falcons go 0-2, the Bucs win the division.

This is due to division record. In ties within the division, division record is the number two tie-breaker after head-to-head. If scenario one happens, the Bucs finish 5-1 in division, while Atlanta is 4-2. If scenario two occurs, the Bucs finish 4-2 in division, while Atlanta falls to 3-3.

Wild Card Hopes

Carolina’s victory over Washington was huge for Tampa Bay. The Bucs desperately needed it for their chances.

Now the Bucs face a near must-win situation in New Orleans. There are plenty of scenarios that allow the Bucs to back into the playoffs with a loss against Carolina in the finale - but chances of making the playoffs with a loss to the Saints is miniscule.

Basically, Tampa Bay would at least seven things to go perfectly for the Bucs to make it in that scenario (incidentally, those same seven things would have to happen if the Bucs fall to 8-8).

The best Scenario for the Bucs is to win out and hope Dallas beats Detroit. Do that, and the Bucs are in the playoffs.

If the Bucs Finish 9-7

The loss cannot be to New Orleans or they lose their tie-breaker advantage over Detroit. If they lose to Carolina, what the Bucs would need is

  • Another loss from the Redskins
  • Lions to lose to Dallas
  • Packers to beat the Lions in the play-in game

OR

  • Falcons lose to both Carolina and New Orleans

If the Bucs lose to the Saints but beat Carolina, it gets ugly as they would need -

  • Another loss from the Redskins
  • Packers to lose to the Vikings and Lions OR the Lions beat the Packers AND
  • two wins from Atlanta OR Carolina, Seattle OR San Francisco, Kansas City OR San Diego and one win from the loser of those match ups AND
  • Losses Jacksonville (two preferably), The Giants (at least one, but not the Redskins one), Chicago (two preferably), Houston (two preferably) and at least one loss by the Eagles.

This would allow the Bucs to pull ahead in Strength of Victory by the narrowest of margins.

OR

  • Falcons lose to both Carolina and New Orleans.

If the Bucs Finish 8-8

It’s bleak, folks...but mathematically, it could happen.

The Bucs would need -

  • Redskins and Packers to lose out and the Vikings to lose to the Bears.
  • Falcons to beat Carolina and New Orleans
  • Two wins from Seattle OR San Francisco, Kansas City OR San Diego, Chicago and one win from the loser of those match ups AND
  • Losses Jacksonville (two preferably), The Giants (at least one, but not the Redskins one), Houston (two preferably) and at least one loss by the Eagles.

That MIGHT get the Bucs the advantage they need in Strenght of Victory to pull it out.

Can the Bucs Clinch a Playoff Spot this Week?

For the first time in my history of doing this for BucsNation - the answer is YES. The Bucs can actually clinch a playoff spot this weekend.

Here’s what has to happen -

Bucs beat the Saints AND Detroit Loss + Washington Loss + Green Bay Loss

Why does this clinch for the Bucs?

  • Green Bay and Detroit would indeed be a play in game. A Packers win puts the Bucs in a tie-breaker with the Lions who lose out on the Strength of Victory tie-breaker to Tampa Bay. There are no combinations of wins and losses that would allow Detroit to take this tie-breaker from Tampa Bay. If the Lions win, the Packers would finish no better than 8-8.
  • Washington would not be able to finish better than 8-7-1
  • Minnesota could get to 9-7, but the Bucs beat them on their abysmal record in conference games.

Other NFC Clinching Scenarios

CLINCHED: Dallas – playoff berth

Seattle – NFC West division title

DALLAS COWBOYS (12-2) (vs. Detroit (9-5), Monday night)

Dallas clinches NFC East division title and home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

  1. DAL win or tie OR
  2. NYG loss or tie​

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9-4-1) (vs. Arizona (5-8-1), Saturday)

Seattle clinches a first-round bye with:

  1. SEA win + DET loss + ATL loss or tie

NEW YORK GIANTS (10-4) (at Philadelphia (5-9), Thursday night)

New York clinches a playoff berth with:

  1. NYG win or tie OR
  2. DET loss or tie OR
  3. GB loss or tie OR
  4. TB loss or tie OR
  5. ATL loss

DETROIT LIONS (9-5) (at Dallas (12-2), Monday night)

Detroit clinches NFC North division title with:

  1. DET win + GB loss or tie OR
  2. DET tie + GB loss

Detroit clinches a playoff berth with:

  1. DET win + TB loss or tie OR
  2. DET tie + TB loss OR
  3. DET tie + TB tie + ATL win OR
  4. WAS loss or tie + TB loss + ATL win or tie

ATLANTA FALCONS (9-5) (at Carolina (6-8), Saturday)

Atlanta clinches NFC South division title with:

  1. ATL win + TB loss or tie OR
  2. ATL tie + TB loss

Atlanta clinches a playoff berth with:

  1. ATL win + ATL clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over DET OR
  2. ATL win or tie + GB loss or tie OR
  3. ATL win + DET loss or tie OR
  4. ATL tie + DET tie OR
  5. WAS loss or tie + GB loss OR
  6. WAS loss or tie + GB tie + DET loss

GREEN BAY PACKERS (8-6) (vs. Minnesota (7-7), Saturday)

Green Bay clinches a playoff berth with:

  1. GB win + WAS loss or tie + TB loss + ATL win or tie + GB clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over TB

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (8-6) (at New Orleans (6-8), Saturday)

Tampa Bay clinches a playoff berth with:

  1. TB win + GB loss + DET loss + WAS loss OR
  2. TB win + GB loss + DET loss + WAS tie + TB clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over DET

Who to Root For This Week and Why

Bucs over the Saints - Obviously. But this is the big one, folks. If the Bucs want to make the playoffs this year - they MUST win this game or their chances go to miniscule.

Dallas over Detroit - The Bucs desperately need this one too, to set up the play-in game scenario for Detroit and Green Bay.

Minnesota over Green Bay - See the Bucs’ clinching scenario.

Chicago over Washington - See the Bucs’ clinching scenario.

Carolina over Atlanta - Opens the door for the Bucs to win the NFC South.

Seattle over Arizona - Helps the Bucs strength of victory.

San Francisco over Los Angeles - Helps the Bucs strength of victory

Cincinnati over Houston - Hurts Green Bay’s strength of victory.

Tennessee over Jacksonville - Hurts Green Bay’s strength of victory

Kansas City over Denver - Helps the Bucs strength of victory

San Diego over Cleveland - Helps the Bucs strength of victory.