Rest of NFC won Sunday, just like Bucs did
The Bucs picked up their fifth straight win Sunday, riding their defense to a 16-11 victory against the Saints.
Unfortunately, nearly everyone else competing with the Bucs for a spot in the playoffs also won, so the Bucs didn't pick up much ground.
The Giants, one game ahead of the Bucs, upset the Cowboys to stay ahead of Tampa Bay, and Atlanta, holding a tiebreaker edge over the Bucs, also won to stay even with the Bucs atop the NFC South and keep the division lead by that tiebreaker. And the three teams one win behind the Bucs in the wild-card standings all won, so the Redskins (7-5-1), Packers (7-6) and Vikings (7-6) are all within a game of the Bucs.
What's wild is with three games to play, the Bucs are only one game behind Detroit (9-4) for a first-round bye in the NFC, but clinging to the last playoff spot in the conference at the same time.
The New York Times' "Playoff Simulator" has the Bucs making the playoffs in 58 percent of their scenarios -- the week ahead is much tougher for the Bucs, facing the 11-2 Cowboys, than the teams trailing them. The Redskins face the Panthers (5-8), the Vikings face the Colts (6-7) and the Packers go to the Bears (3-10), which could tighten the logjam with only two more weeks remaining on the schedule after that.
The Bucs have the toughest remaining schedule of the wild-card hopefuls -- their remaining three opponents are a combined 21-18, while the Giants' are 21-17-1, the Redskins' are 17-22, the Packers' are 19-20 and the Vikings' are 16-23.
Go 2-1 in the remaining three games and the Bucs have about a 98 percent chance of making the playoffs, by the New York Times' simulations; go 1-2 and the Bucs have about a 42 percent chance to make the playoffs.