NFL.com Blogger and long time Pewter Report subcriber Jason De La Torre contributes his unique look at the Bucs playoff chances this week.
At the beginning of the season few, including me, believed there would be a need for this series of articles this year. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have continued the tradition in the NFC South of the last place team rising to playoff contender the next campaign and in doing so have set us up for an exciting finish to the 2010 football season.
With that in mind, I give you the first installment of the Bucs' NFC Playoff Scenario Madness. In this series we're going to try to break down all the possibilities and scenarios in plain English so that you can follow along and know who to root for on a given Sunday.
Before we get started, let's provide you the all important link to the NFL Playoff Tie-breakers. Current NFC StandingsSeed Team W-L Div Rec Con Rec Next Three Opponents
1) Atlanta 8-2 2-0 5-1 GB, @TB, @Car
2) Philadelphia 7-3 2-1 5-2 @Chi, Hou, @DAL
3) Chicago 7-3 3-0 5-3 Phil, @Det, NE
4) Seattle 5-5 3-1 4-3 KC, Car, @SF
5) New Orleans 7-3 3-1 6-2 @DAL, @CIN, STL
6) Green Bay 7-3 3-1 5-2 @ATL, SF, DET
Tampa Bay 7-3 2-2 5-2 @BAL, ATL, @WAS
NY Giants 6-4 1-2 5-2 Jax, WAS, @MIN
Washington 5-5 2-1 4-3 Min, @NYG, TB
St. Louis 4-6 1-2 3-5 @Den, @Ari, @NO This Week's NFC Clinching Scenarios
No team in the NFC can clinch a playoff spot this week. Bucs' Playoff Clinching Scenarios
Tampa Bay cannot clinch a playoff spot this week. If the playoffs started today...
Atlanta and Philadelphia would have byes.
New Orleans would head to Seattle and Green Bay would play at Chicago in the WildCard round.
Why are the Bucs not among the playoff six?
Philadelphia (7-3) is the 2nd seed as the leader of the NFC East and has a conference record better than the Bears.
Seattle (5-5) is the 4th seed as the leader of the NFC West.
New Orleans (7-3) owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bucs and has a better conference record than Green Bay, giving them the 5th seed.
Chicago (7-3) is the NFC North leader over Green Bay based on head-to-head.
Green Bay (7-3) is tied with the Bucs in overall and conference record, they did not play head-to-head, the teams have not played enough common opponents to qualify for the third tie-breaker (best record among common opponents) and they are not in the same division, so division record does not apply. Where the Packers take the sixth seed is in the 4th tiebreaker - strength of victory - which is the best combined winning percentage among opponents a team has beaten. Green Bay's had victories over opponents with a combined winning percentage of .400. The Bucs opponents are a dismal .243. Future CastIf the Bucs Win Out (6-0)
The Bucs would be in the playoffs, as other playoff contenders Green Bay, Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Atlanta all play each other. Barring ties, someone has to lose.
While a victory over Atlanta would tie the Bucs with the Falcons for the NFC South lead, Atlanta would still need to lose one more game the rest of the way - as they would own a better division record if they won the rest of their games and matched the Bucs at 13-3. If the Bucs go 5-1
The best scenario for the Bucs if they lose a game down the stretch would be to lose to Baltimore - the only AFC opponent left on the schedule. If they beat Baltimore, but lose to an NFC team, it will hurt their conference record.
A 5-1 stretch with the Bucs losing to Baltimore still looks good for the playoffs. As most of their competitors for the wildcard lead would have at least four losses. The Bucs would come in with a 10-2 conference record and 4-2 division record. That would be tough to beat.
Even if the one loss came against an NFC opponent, I don't believe there's ever been a team that went 12-4 and didn't qualify for the playoffs.
Division wise if the Bucs lose to Baltimore, then win their remaining five games, they would need Atlanta to lose at least two more times to win the division, as the Falcons have the edge in division record.
If the Bucs and Saints end up tied (assuming a Bucs win over the Saints), the Bucs would have the Saints on conference record.
If the loss came within the NFC, the Bucs could ill afford to lose to the Falcons or the Saints as that would doom their division hopes by putting their division record at best 3-3.
A three way tie between the teams gets a bit hairy. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. If the Bucs go 4-2
One of those losses really needs to be against Baltimore. Two conference losses would hurt and two division losses would all but eliminate the Bucs from the division race (depending on what Atlanta and New Orleans do, of course).
Assuming one of those losses is to Baltimore, the Bucs would finish 11-5 and 9-3 in conference.
Ideally, the Green Bay Packers take the NFC North, leaving the Bucs to compete with the Bears for one of the playoff spots. Chicago, who already has three losses in conference, would need to just to have one of their two losses to an NFC team and the Bucs would have them with conference record.
If one of the Bucs victories is in the season finale in New Orleans, Tampa Bay could potentially catch the Saints for the fifth seed if New Orleans managed to lose one other NFC game.
The Giants would also remain a threat and would need to lose at least one NFC game.
If both losses were conference losses - the Bucs would sit at 8-4 in conference play. They would need at least 3 losses from the Giants, Bears or Saints to get themselves securely in the playoffs. If any of those teams manage just two losses then you're going to be taking out your slide ruler and protractor, looking at a myriad of scenarios.
We'll go in depth with those as we get closer to the end of the season. If the Bucs go 3-3
Assuming the Bucs were to keep their current pattern of beating the mediocre teams and losing to the good teams, we're talking losses to Baltimore, Atlanta, and New Orleans and victories over Seattle, Detroit, and Washington.
The Bucs would be 10-6 and 8-4 in conference play.
For the division, Atlanta would need to finish 1-5 (with the one win coming against the Bucs), New Orleans, 2-4. Not bloody likely.
So assuming the division is gone, let's focus on the wild card.
Again, let's assume the Packers take the NFC North. That leaves the Bears, the Bucs, the Saints, and the Giants competing for two spots.
The Bucs would have a better conference record than the Bears, assuming at least two of their three losses would be NFC teams. If the Giants were to only lose two games and also finish 10-6, they would need to both be NFC losses. We already talked about what Tampa Bay would need from the Saints.
If the Bucs and Giants are tied at 10-6, it would come down to common opponents - of which the Bucs and Giants share four (Carolina, Detroit, Seattle, and Washington). It makes the games against Detroit, Seattle and Washington must wins for the Bucs. If the Bucs go 2-4 or worse...
The Bucs would need a lot of help and in this competitive of an NFC race, the playoffs seem unlikely.
Earliest the Bucs can clinch the division title
Week 17 - everything is just too close right now.
Earliest the Bucs can clinch a playoff berth
Week 17 - as we said above, it's just a mess right now. Who to root for in Week 12 New Orleans @ Dallas (Thanksgiving)
- I know, it's like rooting between Al Queda or the Taliban. In this case though, Dallas is out of the playoff hunt and New Orleans has been getting hot. We need to see the Saints get their 4th defeat and a conference loss to boot. Try to keep down the turkey as you root for Dallas. Tampa Bay @ Baltimore
- Of course you're rooting for the Bucs or you wouldn't be here. However, as we've discussed, a loss in Baltimore doesn't hurt the Bucs too badly. Keep that in mind as you're watching this one. Green Bay @ Atlanta
- Either way the Bucs are helped in this one. If you believe the Bucs can compete for a division championship, root for Green Bay in this one. If you think the Bucs route to the playoffs is more likely a wildcard berth, root for Atlanta. I still hold out hope for a division championship, so I'll be cheering Go Pack Go while trying to keep my leftover turkey down. Philadelphia @ Chicago
- The Eagles are most likely your NFC East champion, barring a late surge from the Giants. Chicago could be a team the Bucs are competing with for a wild card when it's all said and done. Swallow hard and root for Philly as it would hand Chicago their 4th loss and another conference loss.Jacksonville@ NY Giants
- While it won't help with conference record, saddling the Giants with their fifth loss wouldn't be a bad thing. Root for the Jags to keep the G-men reeling.
And that ends this week's playoff madness. We'll be back next week with updated scenarios and more craziness.
Stay thirsty for Bucs football, my friends.
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