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NFL Playoff Picture: Buccaneers in drivers’ seat for wild card spot

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NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Diego Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the San Diego Chargers 28-21, grabbing a share of the division lead and the lead in the hunt for the second wild card spot in the NFC. Four straight wins have dragged their season from the depths of yet another playoff-less season, into a December that actually matters.

That’s because both the Atlanta Falcons and Washington lost, to the Kansas City Chiefs and Arizona Cardinals, respectively. The Bucs beat the Chiefs last week, and actually got blown out by the Cardinals early in the season.

Those results leave the Bucs tied for first place in the NFC South with the Atlanta Falcons, with both teams at 7-5, and half a game ahead of 6-5-1 Washington in the wild card hunt. The 8-4 New York Giants are currently on track to grab the NFC’s other wild card.

The Bucs are now in the drivers’ seat to win the division, and to grab a wild card spot in case they don’t. The Falcons are officially in the lead in the division because they have a better division record, but the Bucs have three games against division opponents on the books and would at minimum tie the Falcons’ division record if they win those.

If the Bucs win out, they’re definitely in the playoffs, and almost certainly as NFC South champs. Even if they don’t, and they’re likely to drop at least one game given that they’re facing the Dallas Cowboys, the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints (twice), they’re still likely to make it in — after all, what are the odds of the Falcons and Washington winning all of their games?

In other words: it’s good to be a Bucs fan right now, with Jameis Winston and a resurgent defense dragging Tampa Bay back into relevance.