Friday, June 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs fans' rooting guide for today with playoffs in mind

You remember scoreboard watching, right?

Bucs fans, still in the thick of the NFC wild-card chase with four weeks to play, can resume that wonderful pastime of relevant December NFL life: Figuring out which teams to pull for down the stretch to keep postseason hopes going strong.

If the Bucs (6-6) keep winning, they need only worry about two teams: the Vikings (8-5) and Seahawks (7-5), your current NFC wild cards. If the Bucs win out, they'll have the head-to-head tiebreaker on both, thanks to a superior conference record. They must catch one of those two to grab a wild card and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

Here, then, is what you're rooting for this weekend:

1. Seattle loses at Baltimore. It's unlikely — the Seahawks are five-point favorites on the road — but a Seahawks loss and a Bucs win would put Tampa Bay into the second wild-card spot with three games remaining. The Bucs would control their destiny from that point. Seattle ends the year at Arizona, another opportunity for the Bucs to make up ground.

2. Carolina loses to Atlanta. At first, you're thinking you want the Falcons (6-6) to lose, but the Bucs have the tiebreaker over Atlanta, so they're harmless as long as the Bucs continue to win. Knowing that, it's far better for the Panthers to lose, taking away the possibility they're playing for 16-0 in Week 17 when the Bucs go to Charlotte. With a bye and home-field advantage perhaps clinched, Carolina might rest key players in that game ... unless they're 15-0.

3. Redskins lose to Bears. This battle of 5-7 teams happens behind the Bucs in the wild-card chase, but should the Bucs lose, the Redskins would have the tiebreaker on head-to-head result, so better for Chicago to win here (all but eliminating Washington from the wild card) and then for the Bucs to beat Chicago in two weeks.

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