On Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took care of the first order of business in their 2010 playoff chase. As Head Coach Raheem Morris said following his team's 38-15 dismantling of the Seattle Seahawks, now it's "on to New Orleans."
The Bucs will head to Louisiana this weekend for their Week 17 regular-season finale knowing their postseason hopes are still alive. Due to the New Orleans Saints' 17-14 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night, Tampa Bay now knows the exact combination of Week 17 game results it will take to get into the postseason.
The Buccaneers will make the playoffs with these Week 17 results:
- Tampa Bay wins at New Orleans AND
- Green Bay loses at home to Chicago AND
- New York Giants lose at Washington.
In this scenario, the Saints take the first Wild Card (#5 seed) at 11-5 and the Buccaneers take the second Wild Card (#6 seed) at 10-6. The Buccaneers beat out both the Giants and Packers based on a better overall record.
The Saints could still win the NFC South with a victory over the Buccaneers and an Atlanta loss at home to Carolina in Week 17. Obviously, that would eliminate Tampa Bay from playoff contention. A Buccaneers' victory in the Superdome on Sunday, however, would set up a very tense plane ride back to Tampa.
Tampa Bay and New Orleans will kick off on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ET. If the Bucs win that contest, they will then need losses by Green Bay and the Giants, and both of those games begin at 4:15 p.m. ET. The Bucs will likely be in the air by 6:00 p.m. at the latest.
Here are the current NFC playoff standings:
(Minnesota plays at Philadelphia Tuesday night to conclude Week 15.)*
The final NFC playoff spot has been reduced to a three-team race for the #6 seed, with the Bucs, Packers and Giants all standing at 9-6. From that group, the Packers hold the tiebreaker edge over both teams due to strength of victory. Thus, it is only Green Bay that controls its own destiny in Week 17 among the final Wild Card competitors.
If Green Bay were to lose and the Bucs and Giants were to win, New York would win the tiebreaker based on better record in common games. That means the only scenario that works for Tampa Bay is a victory over the Saints coupled by losses by both the Giants and the Packers.