Needing to likely run the table and finish the 2015 season with a five-game winning streak to reach the postseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell to 6-7 on the season after a 24-17 loss to New Orleans, and blew an opportunity to keep pace in the NFC playoff race. Tampa Bay lost ground to Seattle, which beat Baltimore, 35-6, to improve to 8-5 on the season.
Minnesota and Seattle are both 8-5 and have a two-game lead on Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Philadelphia for the two NFC Wild Card playoff spots.
“We knew what was at stake today,” Bucs head coach Lovie Smith said. “It’s amazing we lost.”
“Defensively, third downs killed us. Didn’t get any takeaways. Third-and-longs we should win – whether it was penalties or not playing ball – we didn’t.”
Tampa Bay has a short week with a game at St. Louis on Thursday Night Football. The best the Bucs can finish the season is 9-7 and that may not be enough to get them into the postseason, trailing the Vikings and the Seahawks by two games with three games to go.
“We didn’t put a good product on the field today,” Smith said. “They played better ball than we did.”
Here’s a look at the NFC Playoffs picture following Tampa Bay’s loss:
Current NFC Division Leaders NFC South: Carolina – 13-0 NFC West: Arizona – 11-2 NFC North: Green Bay – 9-4 NFC East: Washington – 6-7
Current NFC Wild Card Race (2 Spots) Minnesota – 8-5 Seattle – 8-5 Tampa Bay – 6-7 (Bucs have tie-breaker advantage over Falcons) Atlanta – 6-7 Philadelphia – 6-7 New York Giants – 5-7 (plays Monday night at Miami) Chicago – 5-8 St. Louis – 5-8 New Orleans – 5-8
At 13-0, the Panthers have clinched the NFC South title and are in the driver’s seat for home-field advantage in the NFC. The Bucs (6-7) suffered a crushing defeat against the Saints and are two games back from an NFC Wild Card playoff spot with three games left. The Falcons (6-7) are in free fall after losing six straight, and don’t have the tiebreaker against Tampa Bay. The Saints (5-8) got an inspired win in Tampa Bay, but are out of the playoff hunt.
The Vikings (8-5) slipped behind the Packers (9-4) in the NFC North division race due to back-to-back losses to Seattle and Arizona and thanks to the Packers’ win over the Cowboys on Sunday. Both teams appear to be playoff bound with three games left. The Bears (5-8) suffered an overtime loss to the 49ers and the Redskins and are all but out of the playoff picture. Detroit (4-9) is out with back-to-back losses to Green Bay and St. Louis.
This division remains up for grabs with the Redskins (6-7), the Eagles (6-7) and the Giants (5-7 – plays at Miami on Monday night) all close, but with losing records. The Cowboys (4-9) finally won a game without Tony Romo last week, but have nine losses – thanks to Sunday’s defeat at Green Bay – and will somehow have to win the NFC East to make the playoffs.
The Cardinals (11-2) have clinched a playoff berth and have a good chance of winning the NFC West title. The Seahawks (8-5) may be the hottest team in football right now other than Carolina and Kansas City and have won three straight. The Rams (5-8) beat Detroit on Sunday, but are all but out of playoff contention. The same can be said for the 49ers (4-9), which lost to Cleveland on Sunday.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
PewterReport.com prides itself on being the most complete, comprehensive news source covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and delivering inside scoop on the team found nowhere else.