Third seed still within reach
Here's the latest on the Bucs' playoff picture.
Tampa Bay's 37-3 win against Atlanta today obviously clinches the NFC South title. That much you probably already know. But let's look ahead.
Seattle's loss at Carolina today keeps the Bucs in contention for the No. 3 overall seed in the NFC. The Packers locked up the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye today. But the Bucs can still climb above the Seahawks, who now have the same record as the Bucs (9-5).
The Bucs have to finish with a better record than Seattle because the Seahawks hold the tiebreaker by virtue of their season-opening win over Tampa Bay. But all that must happen is the Seahawks finish 1-1 while the Bucs win their remaining two games against the 49ers and Panthers. Seattle hosts Baltimore (fresh off a loss to the Dolphins) next week and finishes the season on the road against Atlanta in Week 17.
That's not the toughest schedule in the world, so maybe this is a long shot. But anything can happen. What would securing the No. 3 seed mean? It would match the Bucs against the lower-seeded wildcard team. That could be Minnesota, Arizona, even the Saints. We won't know perhaps until the final day of the season. If the Bucs remain the fourth seed, they appear headed for a matchup against the Giants. Beyond that, the No. 3 seed would send the Bucs to Green Bay for the Divisional round if they were to win their first-round game.
Either way, they'll host the wildcard game at Raymond James Stadium as the playoffs return to Tampa. Feel free to debate the merits of playing this team or that team among yourselves.