Our weekly Viewing Guide, in which we've endeavored to help you head into each NFL weekend knowing which outcomes are best for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' playoff hopes, is on life support. We have to acknowledge that. The Bucs currently stand in 12th place in the NFC standings and only six teams will be allowed into the postseason dance. The last team to go from 3-6 – where Tampa Bay currently finds itself – to the playoffs was Washington in 2012.
But the Buccaneers have not given up on this hunt yet, and you can choose the same approach if you like, at least for one more week. You really can. You have free will. You also probably have some free time next week for the Thanksgiving holiday, so you can stay up late and watch all of the games analyzed below, even the Sunday and Monday-nighters.
So we're back one more time to help you hone your rooting interest for Week 11 of the NFL's 2018 season, and if the Buccaneers take care of business in the Meadowlands, we'll do it again in Week 12, too. Otherwise, it will be time to pull the plug on this endeavor. So join us, if you will, as we plunge into Viewing Guide sudden death.
As usual, we're doing this after the Thursday night game, and for once it was actually relevant to our cause. Seattle beat Green Bay to go to 5-5 and push the Packers to 4-5-1. Would we have been better off with a 4-6 Seahawks squad and a 5-4-1 Green Bay team? Probably by a small margin, but that one is over and done with. As for the rest of the games:
Dallas (4-5) at Atlanta (4-5), 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday
This is a good matchup for the Buccaneers as both of these teams are exactly one game ahead of the Buccaneers and one of them (barring a tie) can be caught if the Bucs beat the Giants. So, which one? Well, if you're voting along party lines – that is, against any other NFC South team – the choice is easy. And if you grew up outside of Dallas and grit your teeth at the term, "America's Team" (raising our hand), you're probably rooting against the Cowboys. Let's look just a bit deeper, though. The Buccaneers are still going to play both of these teams, so they can personally reel in whichever team wins here. In the reality where all of this matters, Tampa Bay is winning both of those future games, so it will end up 1-1 against the Falcons and 1-0 against the Cowboys. From a tiebreaker standpoint, the latter record is better, so it would behoove the Buccaneers to end up even with Dallas rather than Atlanta.
Verdict: It hurts my soul a bit to say this, but…sigh…Go Cowboys.
Cincinnati (5-4) at Baltimore (4-5), 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday
As we've noted in previous viewing guides, these all-AFC matchups will only have potential impact on down-the-list tiebreakers like "strength of schedule" and "strength of victory." Since the Buccaneers play both of these teams, the outcome will be a wash in terms of strength of schedule, but there could be a small difference in strength of victory if the Bucs go on to beat the Ravens in Week 15. So root for Baltimore here and just possibly enjoy the starting debut of Lamar Jackson.
Verdict: So we're rooting for the Ravens and probably due to a fairly fabricated reason, but as Slim Charles from "The Wire" would say, "If it's a lie, then we fight on that lie. But we gotta fight."
Carolina (6-3) at Detroit (3-6), 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday
On the face of it, this seems obvious. Carolina is three games ahead of the Buccaneers, a margin that will be difficult to erase in seven weeks, while Detroit is tied with Tampa Bay. Let's forget about catching the Panthers and knock back one of our more direct competitors. Unfortunately, we're not sure the Bucs have that luxury, because Carolina plays in the same division as the 8-1 Saints. The Panthers and Saints play each other twice in the last three weeks, and Carolina certainly could catch New Orleans to win the division, but the more likely scenario is the standings holding as they are now. That make the Panthers a prime candidate to take one of the two Wild Card spots. Like it or not, the Buccaneers are going to have to catch a three-loss team, so we need to root against both Carolina and Minnesota.
Verdict: Go Lions! And stop slouching over there!
Tennessee (5-4) at Indianapolis (4-5), 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday
Pittsburgh (6-2-1) at Jacksonville (3-6), 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday
Denver (3-6) at L.A. Chargers (7-2), 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday
There's really no way to predict at this point how these games could end up mattering in a strength of schedule tiebreaker. If you're a USF fan, root for the Colts since their leading yardage producer is former Bulls running back Marlon Mack. And we have previously been rooting against the Jaguars because we wanted the Buccaneers to rule the state, but now we're starting to feel some Florida solidarity with the surprisingly-struggling Jags. Meanwhile, the Chargers have to be having the quietest 7-2 season ever. Did you realize they were 7-2? Let's root for them to keep winning because a final four of Los Angeles, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and New England would make for a very entertaining AFC playoffs.
Verdict: Remember that free will thing we talked about? Exercise it here and root for whomever you like.
Tampa Bay (3-6) at N.Y. Giants (2-7), 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday
We want Mike Evans top fellow 2014 draft star Odell Beckham. We want Jason Pierre-Paul to wreak havoc on the team that traded him away. We want former Jet Ryan Fitzpatrick to have a happy homecoming to the Meadowlands. Man, we just want a dang Buccaneers win already!
Verdict: Go Bucs, so the Viewing Guide can survive!
Houston (6-3) at Washington (6-3), 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday
Oakland (1-8) at Arizona (2-7), 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday
These are the first interconference games on our docket (there's another REALLY BIG ONE coming up), and those are always easy. Arizona's record probably doesn't matter to the Bucs' playoff hopes, but maybe we'd like to see former Bucs' coach Jon Gruden get another win. Washington definitely does matter in the Bucs' playoff picture, especially with last week's head-to-head win in hand. It's worth considering rooting for the Redskins so that they hold onto the NFC East lead and stay out of the Wild Card race. And maybe we'll do just that in weeks to come, but not here against an AFC team.
Verdict: We're backing the road teams here. Go Texans and Raiders!
Philadelphia (4-5) at New Orleans (8-1), 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday
This one is going to hurt, but when you began reading this Viewing Guide you entered into a binding contract with us and you must follow our directions. We're sorry to tell you that you need to root for the Saints here (unless you are a Brees or Kamara owner in fantasy football, in which case you're already doing so with great glee). The Buccaneers' potential path to the playoffs is through the Wild Card berths, so Philadelphia is much more of a threat here than the Saints. The Bucs' win over the Eagles means they probably only need to catch them to essentially pull ahead in the standings, and that could happen as soon as this weekend if the Saints can stay hot.
Verdict: Pretend you have Alvin Kamara on your fantasy team and, Geaux Saints!
Minnesota (5-3-1) at Chicago (6-3), 8:20 p.m. ET Sunday
This is another very interesting game. With the Packers losing on Thursday night, these two teams are the clear top contenders for the NFC North title. The other one will become a Wild Card obstacle for the Buccaneers. The best outcome for the Bucs is Chicago running away with this one, since the Bears own a head-to-head tiebreaker against Tampa Bay from that forgettable Week Four game at Soldier Field.
Verdict: Go Bears!
Kansas City (9-1) at L.A. Rams (9-1), 8:15 p.m. ET Monday
The fans are the real winners here. What an incredible Monday night matchup. You can enjoy this one at face value without worrying too much about the outcome. The Rams are a near lock to win the NFC West and thus they won't be an issue in the Wild Card race. Still, all things being equal, just root for the AFC in an interconference matchup.
Verdict: Go…to bed early on Sunday night because you're going to need all your energy Monday to stay up to the end of this almost sure to be thrilling game.