The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the Green Bay Packers last night, are no 4-8, and can get to an 8-8 record in the very best-case scenario. You’d think that would eliminate them from the playoffs, given the strength of the competition, but nope: they still have a chance, somehow.
So the first that needs to happen is for the Bucs to win every remaining game, obviously. That alone is hard enough: they face the Detroit Lions, and three division rivals with winning records. Not an easy schedule, but okay, let’s assume they do.
That gets them to 8-8 in a conference filled with teams who are likely to get to 8-8 or better. In fact, they’re probably going to lose out to some 10-6 teams. Okay, fine—let’s assume that by some miracle of miracles, all of the right losses happen for the Bucs to get into a tiebreak at 8-8 with a bunch of other teams.
What happens then is that they...still lose, probably. The Bucs, in fact, lose almost all of the tiebreaks that can be lost in this scenario, except for one: against their division rivals. They beat them, if they beat them all in the next four weeks.
That means that if they get to 8-8, if they get into a tiebreak situation with a bunch of other teams, and those teams are their division rivals, they could get into the playoffs. It requires a lot of things to go right. For one, basically no NFC team can beat an AFC team in the next four weeks, and almost every underdog has to win in an NFC matchup.
That’s as close to impossible as makes no difference, really, but it’s enough for us to not be allowed to say that the Bucs have been officially eliminated from the playoffs. Next Sunday, though, that’s probably no longer the case.
For those interested, play around with the ESPN Playoff Machine and see if you can find the highly convoluted scenarios in which the Bucs make the playoffs. It’s possible!