Week Six in the NFL will be a little lacking in pewter but will still feature plenty of exciting action. And even if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are taking the weekend off (and hopefully coming back at close to full strength in Week Seven) their season will still be affected by what takes in places such as Seattle, New Orleans and Glendale, Arizona on Sunday and Monday.
Here's something Tampa Bay players, coaches and staffers will get to do this Sunday in contrast to most fall weekends: Watch NFL football. They'll likely be rooting for certain outcomes based on how it will most help their own season. If you'd like to do the same, then check out our handy Bye Week Viewing Guide for Buccaneer fans. Some of it may be obvious (we're Seahawks fans this week, folks) but we'll take a look at each matchup on Sunday and Monday to see if there is something to be gained by the idle Buccaneers. The Thursday night game was played already, obviously, but it featured two AFC West teams so it isn't enormously relevant to the Bucs' playoff chase.
So let's do this game by game, starting with the early Sunday contests:
San Francisco (1-4) at Buffalo (3-2), 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday
In general, you're going to want to root for the AFC team in any inter-conference game, of which there are four this week. So you can jump on the Rex bandwagon on that alone if you wish. At 1-4, it seems unlikely that the 49ers would be one of the Bucs' chief playoff competitors in December, but you never know. Now, there's also the little matter of Niners making a quarterback change, which is just about the most drastic lineup decision you can make. No offense to Colin Kaepernick, who is stepping back in, but the Buccaneers get the 49ers next and it would be a little worrisome if Kaepernick came out looking like, oh, his 2013 self.
*Verdict: Go Bills! And go Bills pass defense!
*Philadelphia (3-1) at Washington (3-2), 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday
The Buccaneers' only game against an NFC East team this year is at Dallas in Week 15. The problem with that division is that, at least for now, it's top-heavy, with three teams that are at least 3-2 and the fourth sitting at 2-3. If East teams continue to get wins outside the division, they could lay claim to one or both of the wild card spots in the end. With that in mind, Buccaneer fans should be rooting for more separation in the division standings, with one or two teams rising to the top and the other two falling. Since Philadelphia is ahead of Washington (albeit barely), you might think we'd pull for the Eagles but that's not the direction we're going to go here. Philly appears to have a much tougher schedule remaining, with out-of-division games against Minnesota (5-0), Atlanta (4-1), Seattle (3-1), Green Bay (3-1), Baltimore (3-2) and a 2-3 Cincinnati team that still looks dangerous. Plus, the Eagles have a rookie quarterback. Yeah, Carson Wentz has played very well so far, but with that schedule and a green QB, the Eagles seem to have a greater chance to implode down the stretch.
Verdict: Go Redskins! (Unless you two teams want to tie, which would be fine, too.)
Cleveland (0-5) at Tennessee (2-3), 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday
It's hard to see how this game would affect the Buccaneers, beyond some kind of weird strength-of-opponents tiebreaker that can't possibly be calculated right now. Tampa Bay doesn't play either of these teams this year. Even the Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota career comparison thingy is a manufactured competition that is of no relevance inside One Buccaneer Place.
Verdict: Change the channel. Or Go Browns if you love underdogs.
Baltimore (3-2) at New York Giants (2-3), 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday
Combine the "pull for AFC teams in interconference play" command from above with the "let's make the NFC East less top-heavy" idea and this is a pretty easy call. Plus, we'd like to see Mike Evans (32-449-4) stay ahead of 2014 draft-mate Odell Beckham (27-359-1) in the stat tables in case those two are vying for a Pro Bowl spot at season's end. How you personally feel about that probably depends on your fantasy football lineup.
Verdict: Go Ravens and all Baltimore defensive backs!
Carolina (1-4) at New Orleans (1-3), 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday
If you have the choice, this is probably the early game you're going to choose, and it's actually a little tricky from a rooting standpoint. If you're anything like us, you have deeply ingrained feelings about the Bucs' division rivals, some a little more, uh, pronounced than others. So maybe you will simply be pulling for the NFC South foe you happen to enjoy the least. In terms of the division title race, this game is going to put the loser in an extremely tough position. In other words, which team do you want to see closer to being buried? Given that the Panthers are the three-time defending division champs, they seem more dangerous, even if they're a half-game behind the Saints going in.
Verdict: Go Saints (for this week only)!
Jacksonville (1-3) at Chicago (1-4), 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday
This is a pretty easy call, as the third of those four AFC vs. NFC teams. In addition, the Buccaneers play host to the Bears in about a month and they would like to see their opponents have as little to play for as possible. That will be just a little past midseason, so the Bears will need to lose a lot in the next four weeks to be completely out of it. That could start here, if the Bucs are lucky. And, hey, don't you want to see legendary Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, now an assistant in Jacksonville, get another win?
*Verdict: Go Jaguars!
*Los Angeles (3-2) at Detroit (2-3), 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday
We're a little torn on this one. Either one of these teams could end up being a Wild Card competitor for the Bucs at the end. The Rams are actually just a half-game out of first in the West but it might prove difficult to win out in the division race against both Seattle and Arizona (though they've already beaten both of those teams). On one hand, you might go the "bury them" route and hope for Lions loss that would push the lower-ranked team down a bit farther. However, the Rams also have a win against the Buccaneers in hand, and if things came down to a tiebreaker between them for a playoff spot, that's a head-to-head problem for Tampa Bay. Yeah, we're assuming a lot here with 12 weeks still to go, but if you're looking for a way to choose in this one, that's as good as any.
Verdict: Go Lions!
Pittsburgh (4-1) at Miami (1-4), 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday
This is another one that probably won't make much difference to Tampa Bay in the long run. Neither of these teams is on the Bucs' schedule. What the heck – let's go for State of Florida Supremacy here. We'll let the Jags get a win this week but hope the Steelers can make things tougher on our downstate neighbors.
*Verdict: Go Steelers!
*Cincinnati (2-3) at New England (4-1), 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday
Pictures of the leaders in each individual stat category.
This game looks entertaining on paper but there's not much to go on here, Buccaneer-wise. Um…well, Cincinnati has upcoming games against Washington and the New York Giants in the next month, both games we'd like the Bengals to win. So it would be good if the Bengals were healthy, confident and motivated. Yeah, it's a stretch.
Verdict: Go Bengals? Why not? Go Bengals!
Kansas City (2-2) at Oakland (4-1), 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday
This is another all-AFC game, but at least these are two teams the Buccaneers are going to play this year. In fact, the Raiders are the next team that is going to come to Raymond James Stadium, in Week Eight, while the Bucs will head to Kansas City in Week 11. Both of these teams look like very real playoff contenders, though the Chiefs have already been a bit up-and-down. We would probably like to see Oakland be as comfortable as possible by Week Eight, as opposed to more desperate. Meanwhile, there's a little more time before the Bucs face the Chiefs, which would conceivably give them time (in a perfect Buccaneer world) to tank and care a little less by Week 11. Okay, that's a stretch but we're trying our best here.
Verdict: Go Raiders!
Atlanta (4-1) at Seattle (3-1), 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday
Okay, this one's easy. While we would like to see the Seahawks lose plenty of their remaining games (especially their Week 12 visit to Tampa), this week we're 100% percent pulling for them to take down the first-place team in the NFC South. Atlanta is on quite a roll since losing to the Buccaneers in Week One and we'd sure like to see that momentum slow down a bit. A Seahawks win and the Bucs would pick up a half-game in the standings on Sunday without even lifting a finger off the remote.
Verdict: Go Seahawks! We're all the 12th Man this week!
Dallas (4-1) at Green Bay (3-1), 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday
We have a sneaky feeling that whichever team we choose to root for here we're going to wish we had gone in the other direction a month or two from now. Early in September, we would have expected to be rooting for Dallas here, figuring the Packers were one of the NFC's most solid contenders and the Cowboys would be sinking without Tony Romo and half of their defensive depth chart. However, the Cowboys have won four straight behind rookie QB Dak Prescott and are actually in first place in the NFC East. The Packers have done just fine, too, but they are actually in second in the NFC North, with their one loss coming to their undefeated division rivals, Minnesota. That means, on paper, Dallas is the more likely division winner in this matchup with Green Bay more likely to be a Wild Card foe for the Buccaneers. But do we actually believe that with enough conviction to root for the Cowboys? Again, we might feel differently in a month. Let's assume we want both of these teams to lose as much as possible and therefore pull for the Packers to drop one of their home games. More likely, your rooting interest in this one will be driven by a searing distaste for either the Cowboys or Packers.
Verdict: Go Cowboys! (Though we may deny saying that a month from now.)
Indianapolis (2-3) at Houston (3-2), 8:30 p.m. ET Sunday
We already stretched this premise as far as possible when discussing the Bengals-Patriots matchup. This is another all-AFC game between teams the Bucs won't play this year. We've got nothing.
Verdict: Go…check your fantasy scores.
N.Y. Jets (1-4) at Arizona (2-3), 8:30 p.m. ET Monday
The week ends with an easy call. Not only is Arizona another NFC contender playing an AFC team, but they already have a win over the Buccaneers. We don't want to see some kind of bunched-up Wild Card race with the Cardinals and Rams. Yes, the Bucs' best path to the playoffs is via a division title, but we have to think about the possibilities.
Verdict: Go Jets! (And go to bed, Buccaneers. The bye week is over and it's time to prepare for San Francisco!)