The Tampa Bay Buccaneers put themselves on the brink of their first playoff berth in 13 years with their comeback win over Atlanta on Sunday, but they're not quite in yet. There are two different game results that could clinch that postseason spot for the Bucs this weekend, but with just two weeks left the potential outcomes for Tampa Bay still range from the NFC's first-overall seed (not likely) to no playoffs at all (not likely).
A quick summary: a win by the Bucs on Saturday or a loss by the Bears on Sunday puts Tampa Bay in the playoffs; the NFC South title is still up for grabs and now looks at least somewhat possible; the Buccaneers can take the fifth seed from the Seahawks or Rams without any outside help. Keep all of that in mind as you watch this weekend's game, beginning with the Vikings trip to New Orleans on Christmas Day.
So, which teams should you be rooting for, other than the Buccaneers in Detroit on Saturday? We've got some suggestions. This is your Week 16 Viewing Guide.
Minnesota Vikings (6-8) at New Orleans Saints (10-4), Friday, 4:30 p.m. ET
Update: The Saints won this game.
Two weeks ago, the Buccaneers knew they had to win their last four games and have the Saints lose four in a row in order to steal the NFC South crown at the last second. That seemed extraordinarily unlikely. But now it's Week 16 and half of those needed outcomes have come to pass. It's a lot easier to believe that the Buccaneers could beat Detroit and Atlanta and the Saints could lose to Minnesota and Carolina. Two weeks ago, the Bucs needed to hit the Lotto jackpot; now they just need to buy the right $20 scratch-off. The Vikings are no longer a concern for the Buccaneers. They still have some very slim playoff hopes but they won't get in at the expense of Tampa Bay. Put it all together and this one is easy. By the time the Buccaneers play on Saturday they will know if the NFC South title is still attainable. If it is, and if Tampa Bay can take care of business in Detroit, then things will start to get really interesting.
Verdict: Root for Kirk Cousins to be yelling, 'You like that?!' after the game. And yes, we will like that.
San Francisco 49ers (5-9) at Arizona Cardinals (8-6), Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
Really, the Buccaneers, Cardinals and Rams are all united in their animosity towards the Bears this weekend. The Bucs and Rams get in with a Chicago loss no matter what they do in their own games, and the Cardinals clinch with a win and a Bears defeat. Still, all things being equal, we might as well root for the Cardinals to lose and create another possible avenue to the postseason apart from staying ahead of the Bears. The 49ers have been eliminated but aren't exactly pushovers, as they've beaten the Rams twice already. And, really, this is the most important factor to consider: Our fantasy football team has been eliminated from the playoffs so we really don't care what Kyler Murray does anymore.
Verdict: Go …( /looks up the 49ers' starting QB this week) … C.J. Beathard! Show Kyler how it's done!
Miami Dolphins (9-5) at Las Vegas Raiders (7-7), Saturday, 8:15 p.m.
The Buccaneers' strength-of-victory number (.405) has taken a hit lately because their last two victories came over teams that are now below .500. On the other hand, Tampa Bay's strength-of-schedule mark, which comes after strength-of-victory in the tiebreaker hierarchy, is very good at .510. Either way, it helps if the Raiders win, given that Tampa Bay pounded Las Vegas in Week Seven and won't play the Dolphins. This is admittedly a very minor concern that isn't likely to come into play, but we're trying to be professional here and cover all the bases. Maybe this comes down to whether you'd rather see Lamar Jackson or Tua Tagovailoa in the postseason spotlight, because the final AFC spot may come down to the Ravens and Dolphins.
Verdict: Go Gruden's Grinders!
Cleveland Browns (10-4) at New York Jets (1-13), Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
Cincinnati Bengals (3-10-1) at Houston Texans (4-10), Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
Indianapolis Colts (10-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3), Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
Denver Broncos (5-9) at Los Angeles Chargers (5-9), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
There's a lot still to sort out in the AFC, and two of these four games will have a big impact on the standings. The NFC South is a dogfight between Indy and Tennessee and the Steelers' three-game losing streak has suddenly put the NFC North title into doubt. Does any of it mean anything to the Bucs? Nope. The only two teams here that Tampa Bay played were Denver and L.A., and it beat them both so it really doesn't matter who wins that one. These results could affect the strength-of-victory numbers for other NFC teams in contention but it's almost impossible to know how at this point if you're not a supercomputer.
Verdict: Just give us some exciting football as we enjoy a Sunday of football after playing on Saturday.
New York Giants (5-9) at Baltimore Ravens (9-5), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
The Giants are still very much alive in the playoff race, as they are only one game behind Washington in the NFC East and have a tiebreaker hammer with their two-game sweep of the Football Team. Dallas has a real shot at winning the title, too, and even the Eagles are still technically alive at 4-9-1. Given that the Buccaneers will take the fifth seed and play the NFC East winner with two more wins (assuming no division title for Tampa Bay), should we care who comes out on top in that division. Your mileage may vary but we're going to root for Washington over New York. Both teams have frisky defenses but the Football Team's quarterback situation is a little shakier assuming the Giants' Daniel Jones is back in action soon. Yes, Washington has a fierce pass rush, but the Buccaneers have shown the ability to handle that for most of this season.
Verdict: Just apply the AFC-vs.-NFC rule here to make it simple, and go Ravens!
Chicago Bears (7-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-13), Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
What Buccaneers fans should really hope for us that this game doesn't matter to us at all. If Tampa Bay takes care of business with a win in Detroit on Saturday, improving to 10-5, this game won't matter to the Buccaneers at all. Let the Bears and Cardinals fight it out for the last spot. We know the Bears beat the Bucs in Week Five, but we'd relish a rematch if that unlikely event took place in the postseason. If Detroit puts the Bucs' postseason dreams on hold Saturday, though, this becomes the biggest game of Sunday for Tampa Bay fans. Getting in with a Bears loss wouldn't be as satisfying as a "hat and t-shirt game" in Detroit, as Bruce Arians calls it, but we'll take it. As for Jacksonville, they've lost 13 in a row and may have just had Trevor Lawrence fall into their laps with the Jets stunning road win over the Rams. Will that affect their motivation to win in Week 16? Who knows but it's a concern. But if the Jets can beat the Rams on the road the Jaguars can beat the Bears at home.
Verdict: Can we get Minshew Mania sparked up again? Yes, we can! Go Jags!
Atlanta Falcons (4-10) at Kansas City Chiefs (13-1), Sunday at 1:00 p.m.
Just in pure terms of the standings and the playoff race, there's not much that matters here to the Buccaneers. Technically, a Falcons win would be good for the Bucs' tiebreaker numbers given that they beat Atlanta and lost to Kansas City, but that's slim motivation. Actually, slim motivation is what the Buccaneers want. The Falcons will come to Tampa in Week 17, and even if the Bucs already have a playoff spot wrapped up they will still have several potential goals on the table, including the number-five seed. So the Bucs would prefer an Atlanta team that is coming off a fourth straight loss, perhaps even a lopsided one, and is less motivated to work up to their best performance in the season finale. Plus, come on, it's the Falcons. We don't really like the Falcons.
Verdict: Go Patrick Mahomes! Wrap up that second MVP award!
Carolina Panthers (4-10) at Washington Football Team (6-8), Sunday at 4:05 p.m.
This has to be the first time a game between a 4-10 team and a 6-8 team was flexed to the late-afternoon window because it actually mattered. We began this conversation with the Giants game above and we'll continue the theme here. You may still disagree, but we're sticking with the idea that we'd prefer to face Washington in Week One should the Bucs get the fifth seed. The Football Team would wrap up the division with a win and a Giants loss, so let's root for the second half of that equation here.
Verdict: Go Football Team!
Los Angeles Rams (9-5) at Seattle Seahawks (10-4), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
The incredible thing here is that this game may not even matter to Tampa Bay in the long run. If the Buccaneers win their last two (and don't win the NFC South) they will take the fifth seed in the NFC no matter which of these two clubs loses the division and is in the Wild Card picture. Seattle clinches the division with a win in this game. The Rams don't clinch the division with a win but would finish off a season sweep of the Seahawks and thus would only need to win in Week 17 or have Seattle lose to take the title. However, a Rams loss gives the Bucs a little more leeway in nailing down that fifth seed. If the Rams and Bucs both lose in Week 16, they would be tied at 9-6, which means the Bucs could still come out on top with a Week 17 win and a Rams loss at the same time. A simpler way to look at it is this: The Seahawks have already clinched a playoff spot; the Rams have not. There are a lot of complicated ways that these last two weeks could play out, but it's better for the Bucs if there are three playoff spots left after Week 16 instead of two.
Verdict: Go get your cook on Russ!
Philadelphia Eagles (4-9-1) at Dallas Cowboys (5-9), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
The Cowboys need some help but their path to the division title isn't completely outlandish. They have to beat Philadelphia and the Giants in the next two weeks and have Washington lose to Carolina and Philadelphia. Do we want that? Maaaaybe? Dallas has the most vulnerable defense of the three teams when compared to Washington and New York, and not exactly a dominant offense without Dak Prescott. In terms of a potential Week One matchup, would you rather see the Bucs in the cold of FedExField or MetLife Stadium, or the relatively friendly confines of AT&T Stadium in Dallas? Personally, we're intrigued. Let's keep the possibility of a Dallas division title alive here.
Verdict: Go Cowboys (man, we hate saying that)!
Tennessee Titans (10-4) at Green Bay Packers (11-3), Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
Well, this should be a fun one no matter who you hope gets the win. They called last week's Saints-Chiefs game a possible Super Bowl preview; it's not outrageous to say the same thing about this one. The Packers remain the odds-on favorite to lock down the number-one seed in the NFC, and maybe that's a good thing for the Buccaneers. The Super Bowl path may eventually have to run through Lambeau Field but it doesn't have to be in Week One. On the other hand, there is that slim possibility remaining of the Bucs getting the number-one overall seed, and that involves two Green Bay losses, among a number of other outcomes. So let's kick the can down the road one more week here. Green Bay can lose this one and still get the number-one seed with a win over the Bears in Week 17. Next week we'll decide whether we want that or not.
Verdict: Go Derrick Henry! Stiff-arm the Packers into an uncomfortable Week 17.
Buffalo Bills (11-3) at New England Patriots (6-8), Monday, 8:15 p.m.
Whew! We made it through a long and eventful weekend. In fact, we've almost made it through a long and – to put it mildly – eventful 2020. There's nothing here that matters to the Buccaneers. Just relax and enjoy the potential passing of the baton in the AFC East.
Verdict: Go changing-of-the-guards!