Just how close Bucs came to making playoffs at 9-7
With the Bucs finishing at 9-7 but missing the playoffs, it's easy for fans to think that if Tampa Bay had just won one more game, they'd be in the playoffs.
It's closer than that: If the Bucs had simply won a different game -- even in the final two weeks -- they'd be in the playoffs at 9-7 as a wild card.
Wild-card tiebreakers are peculiar things, but if the Bucs had simply flipped the outcomes of their final two games -- if they'd beaten the Saints on Christmas Eve and lost at home to the Panthers on New Year's Day -- they'd be in the playoffs, preparing to play at Seattle instead of Detroit.
Why? The Bucs and Lions had the same 9-7 record and same 7-5 conference record, but Tampa Bay lost to Detroit in tiebreaker because of their record against common opponents, going 2-3 when the Lions went 3-2. If the Bucs beat the Saints, they finish 3-2 in that subgroup and the tiebreaker moves on to the next criteria: strength of victory, which measures the overall record of the teams you beat. Here, the Bucs have a clear edge -- the nine teams they beat went a combined 62-81-1, while the teams the Lions beat went 56-87-1.
So there you have it -- simply trade wins and losses in the last two weeks, the Bucs are in the playoffs. It's frustratingly close for fans, but also a reminder of how close the Bucs were to being a playoff team in 2016.