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FAB 1. Bucs Playoff Watch

With the Bucs’ great 46-23 win over the Panthers came some great news.

Tampa Bay improved to 7-3.

Not only are the seven wins significant because the team has matched its win total from a year ago with six games to play, but teams that start off 7-3 have made the playoffs 93 percent of the time since 2009.

Even better news for the Bucs? Teams that start off 8-3 have made the playoffs 100 percent of the time since 2009.

Of course long-suffering Tampa Bay fans remember Jon Gruden’s 2008 team starting the season 9-3 before four straight losses in December doomed the Bucs – and Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen.

Since then, Tampa Bay has flirted with the playoffs three times – finishing 10-6 and losing a playoff tie-breaker in 2010, narrowly missing the playoffs with a 9-7 record in 2016 and entering a critical two-game home stretch 7-7 last year before losing by three points to Houston and against Atlanta in overtime to finish 7-9 rather than 9-7.

So what does the rest of 2020 hold for the Buccaneers? PewterReport.com begins its Bucs Playoff Watch in this week’s edition of SR’s Fab 5.

Here is the current NFC Playoff Picture where New Orleans leads the NFC South by half a game, but owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Tampa Bay, which holds the first wild card spot for now. Remember the NFL rules change for 2020 where each conference has three wild card teams rather than two in years past.

CURRENT NFC PLAYOFF TEAMS

1. Packers (NFC North leader) – 7-2 overall / 2-0 division / 4-2 conference
Has head-to-head tiebreaker for No. 1 seed over Saints
Remaining games: at Colts (6-3), vs. Bears (5-5), vs. Eagles (3-5-1), at Lions (4-5), vs. Panthers (3-7), vs. Titans (6-3), at Bears (5-5)

2. Saints (NFC South leader) – 7-2 overall / 3-0 division / 6-1 conference
Half game lead in NFC South
Remaining games: vs. Falcons (3-6), at Broncos (3-6), at Falcons (3-6), at Eagles (3-5-1), vs. Chiefs (8-1), vs. Vikings (4-5), at Panthers (3-7)

3. Seahawks (NFC West leader) 7-3 overall / 2-2 division / 5-2 conference
Current half-a-game division lead over the Rams, pending Los Angeles’ outcome against the Bucs on Monday night.
Remaining games:
at Eagles (3-5-1), vs. Giants (3-6), vs. Jets (0-9), at Washington (2-7), vs. Rams (6-3), at 49ers (4-5)

4. Eagles (NFC East leader) – 3-5-1 overall / 2-2 division / 3-3 conference
Has current lead in NFC East
Remaining games: at Browns (6-3), vs. Seahawks (6-3), at Packers (7-2), vs. Saints (7-2), at Cardinals (6-3), at Cowboys (2-7), vs. Washington (2-7)

5. Buccaneers (First wild card) – 7-3 overall / 2-2 division / 4-3 conference
Half a game behind Saints in NFC South
Remaining games: vs. Rams (6-3), vs. Chiefs (8-1), vs. Vikings (4-5), at Falcons (3-6), at Lions (4-5), vs. Falcons (3-6)

6. Rams (Second wild card) 6-3 overall / 1-1 division / 6-0 conference
Owns tiebreaker over Seahawks based on head-to-head
Remaining games: at Bucs (7-3), vs. 49ers (4-6), at Cardinals (6-3), vs. Patriots (4-5), vs. Jets (0-9), at Seahawks (6-3), vs. Cardinals (6-3)

7. Cardinals (Third wild card) – 6-4 overall / 2-1 division / 4-3 conference
1.5-game lead in wild card race.
Remaining games:
at Patriots (4-5), vs. Rams (6-3), at Giants (3-7), vs. Eagles (3-5-1), vs. 49ers (4-6), at Rams (6-3)

IN CONTENTION

8. Bears – 5-5 overall / 1-1 division / 5-3 conference
Two games back in NFC North
Remaining games: at Packers (7-2), vs. Lions (4-5), vs. Texans (2-7), at Vikings (4-5), at Jaguars (1-8), vs. Packers (7-2)

9. Vikings – 4-5 overall / 3-1 division / 3-3 conference
2.5 games back in NFC North
Remaining games: vs. Cowboys (2-7), vs. Panthers (3-7), vs. Jaguars (1-8), at Bucs (7-3), vs. Bears (5-5), at Saints (7-2), vs. Lions (4-5)

10. Lions – 4-5 overall / 0-3 division / 3-4 conference
2.5 games back in NFC North
Remaining games: at Panthers (3-7), vs. Texans (2-7), at Bears (5-5), vs. Packers (7-2), at Titans (6-2), vs. Bucs (7-3), vs. Vikings (4-5)

11. 49ers – 4-6 overall / 1-2 division / 2-5 conference
2.5 games back in wild card race
Remaining games: at Rams (6-3), vs. Bills (7-3), vs. Washington (2-7), at Cowboys (2-7), at Cardinals (6-3), vs. Seahawks (6-3)

Here are some Bucs-related takeaways from the current NFC Playoff Picture:

• Tampa Bay has the worst conference record (4-3) of all the current NFC playoff teams. Monday night’s game against the Rams is critical not only for head-to-head implications against Los Angeles, but also to get another conference win.

• The Bucs have their bye week after the team’s Week 12 game against the Chiefs. This could come at a great time to refresh the team for an all-important four-game stretch in December that will determine Tampa Bay’s playoff fate.

Bucs QB Tom Brady and HC Bruce Arians
Bucs QB Tom Brady and HC Bruce Arians – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

• Tampa Bay finishes the year with four home games (versus Los Angeles, Kansas City, Minnesota and Atlanta) and just two away games (at Atlanta and Detroit). The Bucs are currently 3-1 at home and 4-2 on the road.

• The team to watch out for are the Vikings. They’ve won three straight games and the next three games are at home against the Cowboys (2-7) and Panthers (3-7) and Jaguars (1-8). Minnesota will be favored in each of those games and could arrive in Tampa Bay with a 7-5 record and plenty of momentum with a six-game winning streak if it wins the next three.

• If the playoffs started today, Tampa Bay would travel to Philadelphia for the first round of the playoffs. But with the Eagles facing five straight games against teams with a winning record, don’t be surprised to see the 3-7 Giants overtake them for the NFC East title. The Giants and Eagles split this year, and New York has a half-game lead in the division and just as tough a schedule as Philly does – at Bengals (2-6-1), at Seahawks (6-3), vs. Cardinals (6-3), vs. Browns (6-3), at Ravens (6-3), vs. Cowboys (2-7). The Bucs narrowly beat the Giants, 25-23, on Monday Night Football four weeks ago, and could face them in New York for a rematch if Tampa Bay holds on to the No. 1 wild card seed and the Giants win the NFC East.

Yet there’s something fundamentally wrong with a potential 10-win or 11-win Buccaneers team traveling to either Philadelphia or New York to play against an NFC East champion that will probably have a losing record. For more on this dilemma, click the next page for Fab 2.