The Tampa Bay Buccaneers tied for second in the NFC South thanks to their inspiring victory in Atlanta on Sunday. For 2013 scheduling purposes, however, they will be considered the division's fourth-place team.
And for that reason, the Buccaneers will take a trip to Detroit next fall and get another visit from the Philadelphia Eagles.
The end of the 2012 regular season brings with it a confirmation of the 16 opponents Tampa Bay will face in 2013. Fourteen of the 16 games were decided well in advance by the usual intra-division games plus the rotating divisional matchups that will pit the NFC South against the NFC West and AFC East. The final pieces fell into place when the 2012 standings were finalized on Sunday.
Following are the Buccaneers' home and away opponents for next season. The exact dates and times of the games will not be known until April, when the NFL releases its full 2013 schedule.
New York Jets
Reports began circulating on Sunday evening, as the Buccaneers were headed home from Atlanta, that their 2013 list of opponents had been finalized, with Detroit and Philadelphia filling out the picture. How this exact scenario could play out was actually explained in the Captain's Blog last week, as it involved an unusual application of the tiebreaker rules.
The crux of the matter was the round-robin sort of way the series within the NFC South broke down this year. The Buccaneers swept their season series against Carolina, while the Panthers swept theirs against New Orleans and the Saints completed that circle by sweeping the Buccaneers. Meanwhile, all three of those teams ended up splitting with Atlanta (giving the Falcons their only three losses of the year). That essentially turned each team's non-divisional schedule into the real tiebreakers.
And it didn't work out in the Bucs' favor, in terms of the way the three 7-9 teams will be listed in the standings. Strangely, Tampa Bay went into the weekend with a tiebreaker edge for third place over Carolina – and then won – and yet still dropped into fourth place. Here's why:
- The first tiebreaker for three teams within the same division is head-to-head record between all three. That's a wash, obviously.
- The second tiebreaker is division record. Also a wash since all three teams split with Atlanta and thus ended up 3-3 in the NFC South.
- The third tiebreaker is record within common games. As division mates, the three teams all had 14 common games, with the only differences being the strength-of-schedule matchups determined by the 2011 standings. The Buccaneers drew the Vikings and Rams; the Panthers had the Bears and Seahawks; the Saints had the Packers and 49ers. The Bucs were the only team to win one of those games, taking down Minnesota…but that did them no good in this tiebreaker. In common games, the Bucs had one less win, and thus at this point they drop out of the equation and it's left to be decided between Carolina and New Orleans.
- When the tiebreaking procedure knocks one team out of the mix, the remaining teams go back to step one. That's head-to-head record, and that actually allows Carolina to officially take second place. After that is determined, it then becomes a tiebreaker situation between the Buccaneers and Saints.
- And, again, you go back to the first step, head-to-head record, and the Saints have the Bucs on that one, taking third place and leaving fourth for Tampa Bay.
And that is how the Buccaneers could put up the same record as the Panthers and beat the Panthers twice and still end up two spots behind them in the standings.
The result is the Buccaneers' first trip to Detroit since 2008, when they rallied from a 17-0 deficit to win, 38-20. On the other hand, Philadelphia will visit Raymond James Stadium for the second year in a row and the third time since 2006.