Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Postseason Chances Remain Strong

NFC Playoff Picture Update: The Buccaneers saw their winning streak snapped Sunday in Dallas but still have several optimistic avenues to the postseason.

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers saw their five-game winning streak come to an end on Sunday night in Dallas, but their playoff hopes are still very much alive.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the Dallas Cowboys, 26-20, Sunday night, hours after the Atlanta Falcons had defeated the San Francisco 49ers, 41-13. That gave Atlanta a one-game lead in the NFC South but fell far short of deciding the division race.

Seattle, Green Bay and the New York Giants all won in Week 15, as well, to tighten up the conference field. Tampa Bay's loss temporarily pushed the Bucs just out of the six-team NFC field, but Monday night's game between Washington and Carolina will clarify that situation. At 7-5-1 before their game, the Redskins have a slightly better winning percentage than the 8-6 Buccaneers, and they would take an outright lead with a win over the Panthers. However, if Carolina wins, Tampa Bay will move right back into the #6 slot.

Here is how the NFC standings look with two weeks, plus Monday night's game, left to play:

Team

Rec.

Div.

Conf.

Remaining Opps.

Notes

  1. Dallas

11-3

3-2

7-3

DET, @PHI

NFC East LeaderĀ 

  1. Seattle

9-4-1

2-1-1

5-4-1

AZ, @SF

Clinched NFC West

  1. Atlanta

9-5

3-1

7-3

@CAR, NO

NFC South Leader

  1. Detroit

9-5

3-2

7-3

@DAL, GB

NFC North Leader

  1. N.Y. Giants

10-4

3-1

7-3

@PHI, @WAS

First Wild Card

  1. Washington

7-5-1

3-2

5-4

CAR, @CHI, NYG

Plays CAR Monday Night

  1. Green Bay

8-6

3-1

6-4

MIN, @DET

Would win NFCN w/2 wins

  1. Tampa Bay

8-6

3-1

6-4

@NO, CAR

Lower strength of victory

  1. Minnesota

7-7

1-4

4-7

@GB, CHI

Seattle jumped back into the lead for the second seed and the first-round bye with Detroit's loss. Atlanta also jumped Detroit into the three seed based on a fourth-level tiebreaker. Atlanta and Detroit have not played head to head; both teams have a 7-3 conference record; and both teams are 3-1 against their common opponents. After those three tiebreakers, the next one is strength-of-victory, and the Falcons have an edge in that department.

The Buccaneers did appear to take a small hit in their division title hopes in Week 15, but it was expected. By beating the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday afternoon, the Falcons held onto control of their own destiny in the NFC South race. The win over San Fran completes Atlanta's record at 5-3 against common opponents with the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay finished 4-4 against those same eight teams. (Division games would not matter as both teams would have the same record).

However, after the Buccaneers' loss to Dallas, that common games advantage for Atlanta is functionally irrelevant. Now that Tampa Bay is a game behind the Falcons, it needs to win one more time than Atlanta over the next two weeks in order to catch them in the division standings. And if that happens, either at 10-6 or 9-7, the Bucs would get the title based on a better record against division opponents.

Here are the way the Bucs-Falcons tiebreakers would play out if both teams finish 10-6:

Tiebreaker

Buccaneers

Falcons

Head-to-Head Record

1-1

1-1

Division Record

5-1

4-2

Common Games Record

4-4

5-3

Conference Record

8-4

8-4

If the Buccaneers won once over the next two weeks and the Falcons lost twice, both teams would finish at 9-7, and then the tiebreaker scenarios would be:

Tiebreaker

Buccaneers

Falcons

Head-to-Head Record

1-1

1-1

Division Record

4-2

3-3

Common Games Record

4-4

5-3

Conference Record

7-5

7-5

As you can see, Atlanta's "common games" edge would no longer matter, as the tie would be broken before that by the Buccaneers' superior record against division opponents.

As for the Wild Card race, the Buccaneers did lose a bit of control with their defeat in Dallas. However, they still have a good shot at a Wild Card spot with two more wins and a 10-6 finish, particularly if Washington loses on Monday night.

Barring another tie along the way, there are no tiebreaker concerns with Washington, which would need to win its last three games, including Monday night's contest, to finish 10-5-1 and ahead of a 10-6 Buccaneers team. The club that is most likely to end up in a tiebreaker scenario with the Buccaneers is Detroit. Green Bay would be 10-6 if it won its last two games, but that would include a Week 17 win over Detroit, which would give the Packers the NFC North title. That would push Detroit into a tie for the Wild Card spot with Tampa Bay. Here's how the tiebreakers would look between a 10-6 Buccaneers team and a 10-6 Lions team:

Tiebreaker

Buccaneers

Lions

Head-to-Head Record

n/a

n/a

Conference Record

8-4

8-4

Common Games Record

4-1

4-1

Since that third tiebreaker is also knotted, it would go to the fourth one, which is strength of victory. This is good news for Tampa Bay because Detroit currently has the worst strength-of-victory mark of all the NFC contenders. For this reason, Buccaneer fans should probably root for Green Bay to catch the Lions with a Week 17 victory. Similar tiebreakers would unfold between the Packers and Buccaneers, and Green Bay currently has a superior strength-of-victory mark.

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