Bucs fan primer: What to root for in Week 14
We're back for another week of Advanced Scoreboard Watching, helping Bucs fans know what they should be pulling for to maximize Tampa Bay's playoff chances.
The past four weeks have gone remarkably well toward that goal -- not only are the Bucs 4-0, but the six teams now trailing them in the wild-card standings are all either 2-2 (Washington, Green Bay, Arizona) or even 1-3 (Minnesota, New Orleans, Philadelphia). So not only have the Bucs made up at least two games on everyone currently chasing them, but none of those teams have much momentum to speak of going into Week 14.
Having said that, here are the games of consequence and who you want to win. It starts, obviously, with the Bucs beating the Saints, but you knew that.
Redskins at Eagles, 1: Washington won the first meeting, and at 6-5-1, they're the closest competition to the Bucs for a wild card -- Bucs fans definitely want to see Philadelphia (5-7) bring down their division rivals another notch with a home win. That would keep the Eagles within two games of the Bucs, but they still have the Ravens, Giants and Eagles and are hurting with a 3-6 record in conference games.
Cardinals at Dolphins, 1: Arizona (5-6-1) is a game and a half back of the Bucs, but the Bucs' conference loyalty is to the AFC team for the next four weeks. A little in-state help from Miami can knock the Cardinals out of contention -- Arizona still must go to Seattle, so they're not likely a major threat anyway.
Vikings at Jaguars, 1: Speaking of in-state help -- can the 2-10 Jaguars, wildly disappointing this season, come up with a home win for the fans (and the Bucs)? Minnesota is barely better, with a 1-6 mark since their surprising 5-0 start. They have so little momentum to quality as a wild-card threat, but a loss here helps with that.
Bears at Lions, 1: The Bucs are only one game behind the Lions (8-4), so you might as well pull for Chicago, which despite being 3-9, has a win against Detroit on their resume this season. If Tampa Bay can get ahead of Atlanta as a division champ, every Detroit loss helps their chance at a higher playoff seed.
Falcons at Rams, 4:25: Nothing around the NFL helps the Bucs more than a Falcons loss, and Atlanta goes across the country to Los Angeles, perhaps without top receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. The Bucs' home loss to the Rams stings more that L.A. is 4-8 and has lost seven of its last eight, but a Rams win here would be huge.
Seahawks at Packers, 4:25: Seattle is trying to keep an opening-round playoff bye, and needs a road win here to stay in control of that. Green Bay has won two straight, so they're as much a threat to the Bucs as anyone chasing them for a wild card. They get the Bears next, so a loss to Seattle would give the Bucs some breathing room.
Cowboys at Giants, 8:30: Bucs fans want the Cowboys to win here -- first, it could clinch a first-round bye and even home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs, giving them less incentive to win agains the Bucs next week. What's more, beating the Giants helps the Bucs' chances of being the No. 1 NFC wild card and getting an easier playoff draw in the opening dround.
There you have it -- lots of keep track of, but if the Bucs can pull off a fifth straight win, nothing here matters as much as that ...