The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won't be going to the playoffs in 2017, but they will play a significant role in how the NFC playoff field unfolds in Week 17.
The National Football League announced on Sunday evening that the Buccaneers' home game against the New Orleans Saints on December 31 will kick off at 4:25 p.m. rather than its originally scheduled time of 1:00 p.m. The move was part of the league's "flex scheduling" programming, which is designed to put more significant games in front of a larger audience. Tampa Bay's game against the Saints could determine the outcome of the NFC South division race, coupled with Carolina's game contest at Atlanta. The NFL also moved the Panthers-Falcons contest to 4:25.
The Saints and Panthers are both 11-4 entering the final weekend of the regular season, but New Orleans has beaten Carolina twice this year. The NFL also flexed the Panthers-Falcons game to the late afternoon, setting up a dramatic finish in the NFC South. New Orleans controls its own destiny in the NFC South but a Buccaneers victory would give Carolina an opportunity to win the division.