Fourth seed looking more likely
The Bucs are still technically in the running for anything up to the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. But in reality, the Bucs look like a good bet to wind up the No. 4 seed, given their current circumstances.
Losing to Houston on Sunday while the other top three teams in the NFC won only hurt the Bucs' playoff standing. With Dallas sitting at 12-1, the Bucs are out of the running for the No. 1 seed. The No. 2 seed is a very long shot, considering Green Bay is 11-2 and would have to lose its remaining games for the Bucs to have even a mathematical chance.
So, you can pretty much forget about the possibility of a first-round bye. Probably not gonna happen.
That leaves the third and fourth seeds unsettled. NFC West champion Seattle is 9-4 and holds a head-to-head tiebreaker over Tampa Bay by virtue of their season-opening win against the Bucs. So, the only way the Bucs can climb above Seattle is to finish with a better record than the Seahawks. One possible scenario would require Seattle to lose two of its remaining three games while the Bucs win all three of theirs.
But Seattle has Carolina, Baltimore and Atlanta left on its schedule -- three losing teams with a combined record of 12-27. Given the Seahawks' five-game win streak, I doubt they'll choke twice against that lineup. The Bucs don't exactly have a murderer's row, either, with Atlanta, San Francisco and Carolina left to play.
So, what does it all mean? Let's assume the most likely outcome: the Bucs are seeded fourth. That leaves them with a date against the wildcard Giants in Tampa in the first round. And given the current standings, the Bucs would be in line to travel to Dallas for the divisional round should Tampa Bay defeat New York.
We'll let you know if anything changes, but chances are good this is the way things will play out.