The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2016 playoff hopes weren't in great shape when they departed New Orleans on Saturday evening. They were all but eliminated by the time the team pulled into One Buccaneer Place.
The Buccaneers' loss on Saturday in New Orleans coupled with an Atlanta win at Carolina clinched the NFC South title for the Falcons. Tampa Bay then had to turn its sights to a Wild Card spot, which was still within reach if the Buccaneers could beat the Panthers on New Year's Day…and a bunch of other games fell their way.
Unfortunately, the first result the Buccaneers needed was a Cincinnati win over Houston on Saturday night, which would have helped in a complicated scenario that came down to a tie with the Green Bay Packers and a "strength of victory" tiebreaker. Houston's win helped the Packers and put that tiebreaker out of reach for Tampa Bay.
Update: There is one very small possibility that still exists for the Buccaneers. If Washington and the New York Giants tie in Week 17, and a number of other games go Tampa Bay's way, they could still make the playoffs.
The Bengals' loss may have just about closed the final door on Tampa Bay but the Bucs would have needed a lot more help even had Cincinnati won. In fact, a total of nine more games over the final eight days of the season would have had to fall right, five of them just to make those strength of victory numbers come out right.
First, here are the updated NFC standings after Saturday's results:
Clinched NFCE, #1 seed
Gets first-round bye with win
Clinched NFC West
Plays Dallas Monday
- N.Y. Giants
Clinched playoff spot
- Green Bay
Can win NFCN with win at DET
Controls destiny with DET loss
- Tampa Bay
By virtue of their win over Minnesota on Sunday, the Packers have pulled to within a half-game of the Detroit Lions atop the NFC North. If Detroit loses at Dallas on Monday night, they will fall into a tie with the Packers, setting up a winner-take-all showdown in Week 17 when Green Bay visits Detroit. The loser of that game will be 9-7, which is the same record the Bucs would have if they beat the Panthers. If Washington were to lose to the Giants on New Year's Day to fall to 8-7-1, the Bucs could end up in a 9-7 tie with either Detroit or Green Bay.
That would have to be Green Bay for the Bucs to stay alive. Tampa Bay's loss to the Saints tipped the "common games" tiebreaker between the Bucs and the Lions in Detroit's favor. In contrast, a Bucs-Packers tie would go beyond that game and to the strength of victory tiebreaker. Here's how that would look:
Strength of Victory
We have "strength of victory" italicized and marked as "tbd" because those numbers are still very much in flux. Green Bay had a slight edge over the Buccaneers in that category coming into the weekend, and still does. For the Bucs to catch their competitors in that tiebreaker, they would have needed all of the following games to come out correctly…and this is after that necessary Cincinnati win that didn't come to pass.
To Get to a 9-7 Tiebreaker with Green Bay for Wild Card Spot #2, the Bucs need these results:
- Dallas over Detroit on Monday Night, Week 16
- Tampa Bay over Carolina, Week 17
- New York Giants over Washington, Week 17
- Detroit over Green Bay, Week 17
To Win the Resulting 9-7 Tiebreaker with Green Bay, the Bucs need these results:
- Kansas City over Denver, Sunday Night, Week 16
- San Francisco over Seattle, Week 17
- Indianapolis over Jacksonville, Week 17
- Dallas over Philadelphia, Week 17
- Tennessee over Houston, Week 17
Some of those outcomes, such as the Chiefs beating the Broncos, help the Buccaneers' SOV number. Some of them, such as the Titans beating the Texans, hurt the Packers' SOV. Every single one of them was necessary for the Bucs to barely eke out the tiebreaker. It was a lot to ask, and now it won't matter.