If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers clinch a spot in the 2016 NFL playoffs, it won't be in Week 16.
The four-game combination of results that would have put the Buccaneers in the postseason prior to their season finale on New Year's Day evaporated quickly when Green Bay and Washington won during the league's slate of early-afternoon games on Saturday. In addition, the Atlanta Falcons remained in control of the NFC South title race with a win at Carolina.
Seattle plays Arizona at the same time the Bucs and Saints are engaged. Detroit plays at Dallas on Monday night. Here is how the NFC standings look after the early round of games on Saturday:
Clinched NFCE, #1 seed
Plays Arizona Saturday
Can still get first-round bye
Plays Dallas Monday
- N.Y. Giants
Top Wild Card spot
- Green Bay
Owns conf. tiebreaker over TB
- Tampa Bay
Plays New Orleans Saturday
( Indicates record against common opponents between the Buccaneers and Packers.)
The Buccaneers thus need a victory to keep pace with Green Bay and stay ahead of Washington in the NFC Wild Card race. A Tampa Bay win in the Superdome would improve its record to 9-6 to match the Packers, once again throwing that matchup into a long list of tiebreakers.
The first tiebreaker between the Buccaneers and Packers would be head-to-head record, but those two teams will not meet during the regular season. After that, the two Bay teams are tied in record against conference opponents, record against common opponents and strength of victory. Strength of victory (SOV) measures the combined winning percentage of every team you have beaten. The next tiebreaker is strength of schedule (SOS), which measures the combined winning percentage of every team you have *played.
Below is a look at the tiebreakers, in order, between the Buccaneers and Packers, after Green Bay's win but before Tampa Bay plays. The strength of victory, strength of schedule and conference point rankings tiebreakers are listed to show the order in which they would apply but are still using numbers from before Saturday's games, since none will be finalized until the end of the week of games.
Strength of Victory *
Strength of Schedule *
Conference Pts. Rankings *
( Numbers listed are from before Saturday's games and will change by the end of the week.)
*Green Bay's win didn't change the fact that the Buccaneers would control their own Wild Card destiny if Detroit loses at Dallas on Monday night. In that case, the Packers and Lions would be tied atop the NFC North with identical 9-6 records and would be headed to a Week 17 showdown in Detroit. The winner would take the division title while the loser would fall to 9-7, which would open the door for a 10-6 Buccaneers team to jump ahead in the Wild Card race.
Tampa Bay would also be assured of a Wild Card spot at 10-6 if the Giants were to lose at Washington in Week 17, thanks to New York's defeat in Philadelphia on Thursday night. In that scenario, the Bucs would win a tiebreaker over the Giants due to a superior record against NFC opponents (8-4 to 7-5).
As for the NFC South race, it remains in contention even though Atlanta would have at least a one-game lead heading into Week 17. If the Buccaneers beat the Saints to improve to 9-6, they would keep their division hopes alive. A loss by Atlanta to New Orleans in Week 17 paired with a Buccaneer home win over Carolina would leave both teams at 10-6 and Tampa Bay would take the title due to a better record against division opponents.