While FB Mike Alstott and the Buccaneers warmed up for Green Bay, Tampa Bay earned a playoff spot
After a final team workout, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers headed into their locker room at Raymond James Stadium at 3:50. Minutes later, the Carolina Panthers failed in a fourth-quarter comeback bid at Pittsburgh, falling to 7-8 with a 23-20 loss. That result, plus losses by Detroit and Dallas earlier in the weekend, combined to clinch a playoff spot for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
However, the Minnesota Vikings were also putting the finishing touches on a win over the Giants in the Meadowlands at the same time, a victory that kept the pressure on the Buccaneers in another manner. Because Minnesota improved to 9-6 with their second straight victory, Tampa Bay needs a win over Green Bay this afternoon to stay a game up on the Vikings. Should the Buccaneers earn that much-need victory, the NFC Central Division crown will remain undecided until the final week of the season.
Tampa Bay heads to Chicago next week for its season finale. Wins over Green Bay today and the Bears next week would deliver the Bucs' first division title since 1981. However, a loss in either contest coupled with a Minnesota win in Minneapolis over Detroit next week would result in a Bucs-Vikings tie atop the division with 10-6 records. After the division tiebreaker failed to separate the tie, Minnesota would top the Bucs thanks to a superior conference record (8-4 to 7-5).
Thus, despite a postseason invitation that arrived early, today's grudge match against the Packers has actually taken on added significance. To follow all of the action this afternoon, please visit the Buccaneers' GameDay section.