The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the New Orleans Saints in a frustrating game that ended almost all of their playoff aspirations. They’re not quite out of it yet, but the number of scenarios where they’re in is vanishingly small.
As far as I can tell, the Bucs would be eliminated from the playoffs if the Detroit Lions beat the Dallas Cowboys tomorrow. That would leave the Lions at 10-5 and the Green Bay Packers at 9-6, and the Bucs would at most be able to tie the Packers — at which point they’d lose to them on a strength of victory tiebreaker. I can find no scenario in which they win that tiebreaker.
But even if the Lions lose tomorrow, the Bucs are extremely unlikely to make it to the playoffs. First they would need the Giants to beat Washington, or Washington would get the final wild card spot at 9-6-1.
If the Green Bay Packers then beat the Lions next week, the Bucs and Lions would be tied at 9-7 and the Lions would win the tiebreaker based on win percentage in common games. If the Lions beat the Packers, that would put the Packers and Bucs at 9-7.
With all of that going their way, the Bucs still need to win the strength of victory tiebreaker against the Packers. The New York Times’ Upshot blog gives them a 3% chance of doing so, and that’s after a whole lot of games break their way to get them into that position.
Some of the results the Bucs would then need include a Tennessee Titans win over the Houston Texans, an Indianapolis Colts win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, and a highly unlikely San Francisco 49ers win over the Seattle Seahawks to flip the strength of victory tiebreaker to their side.
In other words: the Bucs need everything to go their way to make the playoffs. They don’t just need to win, they just need their rivals to get the right results, they need the teams who lost to their rivals and the teams they beat earlier in the season to get just the right results as well.
All of this has one bizarre consequence: if the Houston Texans beat the Cincinnati Bengals tonight, the Bucs cannot get the strength of victory tiebreaker against the Green Bay Packers, per the New York Times’ Upshot calculator, and corroborated by the ESPN Playoff Machine.
And that is how the Bucs could be eliminated from the playoffs by midnight tonight, on Christmas Eve.
Good luck, Dirk Koetter. You’re going to need it.