Tampa Bay is one win away from a 10-5 record and clinching a wild card playoff spot for the first time since making the playoffs in 2007 as 9-7 NFC South champions. The Bucs, who are 5-2 on the road, travel to Detroit to face a banged up 5-9 Lions team on Saturday, December 26 that doesn’t have much to play for the day after Christmas.

The Bucs’ 31-27 win over the Falcons in Atlanta on Sunday kept the team as the No. 6 playoff seed behind the 9-5 Rams and the 8-6 Cardinals. If the playoffs were to start today, the Packers (11-3) would have the first-round bye and the Bucs would travel to Seattle to play the NFC West-leading Seahawks (10-4).

There were some significant developments in the NFC playoff picture on Sunday, as the Rams were upset by the previously win-less Jets. That loss moved the Bucs into a tie with the Rams in terms of 9-5 records, but Los Angeles holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Tampa Bay, so it’s holding on to the No. 5 playoff spot for the time being.

Bucs QB Tom Brady and WR Antonio Brown

Bucs QB Tom Brady and WR Antonio Brown – Photo by: USA Today

However, if the Bucs were to win out against the Lions and the Falcons, and the Rams were to lose to either the Seahawks (10-4) or the Cardinals (8-6), then Tampa Bay would move up to the No. 5 seed in the NFC and play the winner of the NFC East division, which is currently Washington (6-8). Yet with two games remaining, all four teams in the NFC East are still mathematically alive to win the division because it’s been such a down year in Washington, Dallas, New York and Philadelphia.

There is still a slim, outside chance the Bucs win the NFC South. That would require Tampa Bay to win its final two games and for New Orleans (10-4) to lose its final two games. The Saints, who have lost two straight for the first time this season, got Drew Brees back at quarterback on Sunday, and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bucs.

Here is a current look at the NFC playoff picture entering Week 15.

CURRENT NFC PLAYOFF TEAMS

*1. Packers (NFC North leader) – 11-3 overall / 4-1 division / 9-2 conference
Remaining games:
vs. Titans (10-4), at Bears (7-7)

*2. Saints (NFC South leader) – 10-4 overall / 5-0 division / 8-2 conference

Remaining games: vs. Vikings (6-8), at Panthers (4-10)

*3. Seahawks (NFC West leader) – 10-4 overall / 2-2 division / 7-3 conference
Remaining games:
vs. Rams (9-5), at 49ers (5-9)

4. Washington (NFC East leader) – 6-8 overall / 3-2 division / 4-6 conference

Remaining games: vs. Panthers (4-10), at Eagles (4-9-1)

5. Rams (First wild card) – 9-5 overall / 2-2 division / 8-2 conference
Remaining games:
at Seahawks (10-4), vs. Cardinals (8-6)

6. Buccaneers (Second wild card) – 9-5 overall / 3-2 division / 6-4 conference

Remaining games: at Lions (5-9), vs. Falcons (4-10)

7. Cardinals (Third wild card) – 8-6 overall / 2-2 division / 6-4 conference
Remaining games:
vs. 49ers (5-9), at Rams (9-5)

*= Clinched playoff berth

IN CONTENTION

8. Bears – 7-7 overall / 2-3 division / 6-5 conference
Remaining games:
at Jaguars (1-13), vs. Packers (11-3)

9. Vikings – 6-8 overall / 3-2 division / 4-6 conference
Remaining games: at Saints (10-4), vs. Lions (5-9)

10. Cowboys – 5-9 overall / 1-3 division / 4-6 conference
Remaining games: vs. Eagles (4-9-1), at Giants (5-9)

11. NY Giants – 5-9 overall / 3-2 division / 4-7 conference
Remaining games:
at Ravens (9-5), vs. Cowboys (5-9)

12. Eagles – 4-9-1 overall / 2-2 division / 4-6 conference

Remaining games: at Cowboys (5-9), vs. Washington (6-8)

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

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: sr@pewterreport.com
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Spruce
5 months ago

It’s pretty critical the Bucs get the no 1 wild card slot and play Washington or whomever wins the NFC East. Failing that the greatest odds are they will be one and done.
The regular season final games have been just perfect for seeding but they’ll need more then they’ve shown to compete with Seattle, New Orleans or God help them Green Bay if they had to go to the frozen tundra.

MWD
MWD
Reply to  Spruce
5 months ago

I think the Seahawks beat the Rams this weekend which will put the Rams behind us if we follow suit and beat the Lions- that would put us in the 5th spot and I don’t see Washington losing to the Panthers but the Eagles game could be one they could get upset.

Spitfire
Reply to  Spruce
5 months ago

I’d rather us have an easier first game as well but to think that will be the only chance to win a playoff game and that’s it is silly. I wanna see us play the NFC East first round as well, even though the Giants weren’t pushovers if it ended up being them, but to say if we don’t play that Division means we are one and done means that we wouldn’t be good enough to beat anyone else which means we wouldn’t stand a chance to make it to the Super Bowl. So if that is the case then… Read more »

MWD
MWD
Reply to  Spitfire
5 months ago

We play for four quarters- we beat anyone- agreed

Spruce
Reply to  Spitfire
5 months ago

I never said the Bucs couldn’t win against anyone. I said the greatest odds are that they’d be one a done. I follow the Bucs as a casual fan. The fan base is in the dumps after loses predicting doom and pointing fingers and shows unfettered enthusiasm after wins. They beat Atlanta in a come back. Not exactly a resume builder.
It’s flawed team. It’s not going to change. The good news is they play the games for a reason so anything is possible.

Buc stops here
Reply to  Spruce
5 months ago

The Bucs win over teams with lousy defenses. The offense on the other side does not make much difference. Perfect example: Green Bay. The defense is okay there, their offense is amazing. The Bucs took them apart. Atlanta does not have a great defense, the Bucs took them apart offensively. The good defenses – Kansas City, New Orleans, Chicago – all top 10 defenses – give them a lot of grief. Right now in the playoff picture two teams do not have a good defense – two. Green Bay and Seattle. Washington has a top 10 defense which is why… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  Buc stops here
5 months ago

We beat the Giants, a top ten defense in points allowed, we beat the crap out of the Packers, ranked #14 in PA. And we lost to the Bears, also top 10, by merely one point.
The only top ten defense that soundly thrashed us was the Saints.

Dave
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 months ago

The only team that soundly beat us period was the Saints. The 3 non Saints losses came by a combined 7 points. We don’t get blown out. Period. If we play the Saints again, it’ll be close.

Buc stops here
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 months ago

Right, Packers are not a top 10 defense. The Giants were not a top 10 defense when they played them – they are now. Number of points you lose by makes no difference – it is still a loss. My point still stands. You don’t have to like it but it remains true. Until the Bucs prove otherwise (in the playoffs beating a top 10 defense) I don’t see otherwise. Not being negative – just going by the numbers. I hope but don’t expect them to win against top defenses.

eaustinyoung
5 months ago

I like the Bucs chances to swap seeds and go to the NFC East. Hoping it stays Washington because of the cold in New York. Rams can lose to Seattle or Arizona.
Ideally I’d like the Cowboys to make a push for the East because they don’t scare me at all.

Last edited 5 months ago by eaustinyoung
Naplesfan
Reply to  eaustinyoung
5 months ago

I don’t think playing in the cold will make a lot of difference to this Bucs team. The player most likely to be affected by cold weather is always the quarterback, and TB-12 is the king of January football in the cold, whether playing away or at home. He may like Florida’s warm weather a whole lot more than the cold of New England, but he’s a proven champion and frigid weather star, going all the way back to the famous “tuck rule game” playoff game played in the snow, which I remember vividly watching nearly two decades ago!

Spruce
5 months ago

This season for Brady is remarkably like last season. The only team they beat that they were not supposed to was Green Bay. Beating all the teams they were supposed to beat has them sitting pretty for the playoffs but doesn’t exactly bode well when they play a really good team again.

Naplesfan
Reply to  Spruce
5 months ago

Brady is one player. The Bucs are 53 players. We also beat one team that we weren’t “supposed” to beat, which also happens to be the no.1 seed in the NFC … a team that we beat the absolutely lovin’ crap out of earlier this season. We’ve seen lots of 11-5 and 10-6 teams over the years do very well in the playoffs, better than 13-3, 14-2, 15-1 and even – in Brady’s case – 16-0 teams. The thing to remember is that the playoffs are always a brand new season that has little to nothing to do with whatever… Read more »

Dave
Reply to  Spruce
5 months ago

False. If Jameis and the Bucs beat every team they were supposed to beat in 2019, which includes winning 3 games that they lost to losing teams( vs NYG, vs Car, vs Atl), it would have come down to tiebreakers vs them and the Vikings for the final wild card spot. They both would have had the same division and conference record. So it’s possible, this was a playoff team if they simply won the games they were supposed to win last year

Pete Wood
5 months ago

Bucs can beat Seattle, the Saints, and any team from the NFC East. Packers are daunting. A very good team and really bad weather to boot.

MWD
MWD
Reply to  Pete Wood
5 months ago

Pete- and this is just theory here- if we end up the 5th seed and beat the NFC east team- the second round would be New Orleans am I correct? That would potentially put GB vs Seattle on that side of the bracket. I guess it would all figure into what the 6th and 7th seeds do because if they both lose, then it would be us going to the 1 seed.

Last edited 5 months ago by MWD
eaustinyoung
Reply to  Pete Wood
5 months ago

I disagree. The only thing the Packers have is cold weather on their side. It’s painfully obvious that Payton has the Bucs number and always will. The Saints D crushes Tampa consistently.

Pete Wood
Reply to  eaustinyoung
5 months ago

I will boldly point out that I have no idea what I am talking about. That’s why Pewter Report keeps sending back my resumes. Cold weather scares me more than the Packers do. Of course, Brady isn’t scared of snow. Who knows?

Naplesfan
Reply to  Pete Wood
5 months ago

We already beat the NFC no. 1 seed Packers … we didn’t just beat them, we thrashed them soundly. So we can beat anybody in the NFC, and we only narrowly lost to the no. 1 seed in the AFC (by just 3 points). The Bucs have already proven on the field that we can play with any team in the league, with the lone exception of the Saints, who are kryotonite to the Bucs, going all the way back to the founding of our franchise (more losses to the Saints than any other team in the league). Even if… Read more »

eaustinyoung
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 months ago

Everything you said is correct, but the Bucs have the most losses to the Bears (40). Saints are 2nd with 37 losses.

PatrioticChief
5 months ago

I think Bucs have a decent shot of getting the 5th seed. Obviously no guarantees of jack but it’s plausible.

4CTheMarket
Reply to  PatrioticChief
5 months ago

We win out, we have the no. 5 seed guaranteed unless NO goes 0-2, then we would be 1st, 2nd or 3rd seed.

Pete Wood
Reply to  4CTheMarket
5 months ago

An optimist! A rare bird in Pewter comments.

eaustinyoung
Reply to  4CTheMarket
5 months ago

Not impossible. The Vikings have proven they know how to rally and pull an upset. They could potentially win on Christmas. Bucs win in Detroit and they’re both 10-5 with the Saints holding the tiebreaker. If that’s the case though, I don’t think they bench their starters week 17 against the Panthers. Payton won’t let them lose the division that way I think.

Naplesfan
5 months ago

The Bucs certainly have a LOT to play for these last two games … not just to play into the playoffs, but also to secure the highest possible seed, and potentially even still win the division. While few predict that the Saints will lose the next two, they easily could, just as the Bucs could easily win the last two.

scubog
5 months ago

As rare as it has been for the Bucs in my 4+ decades following this team, I hate trying to sort out the endless playoff scenarios. As Ronde Barber would say, “It is what it is” or as Dorris Day would sing, “What will be will be”. Fact is, just like the regular season games, any team can defeat any other team. Just ask the Rams and Steelers who just got defeated by an improbable foe. I’ve seen enough of this 2020 version to know it can go head to head with and defeat any team it will need to… Read more »