Don’t look for Bucs coach Bruce Arians to rest his marquee guys — at least the healthy ones — in Sunday’s 4:25 p.m. season finale against the Panthers at Raymond James Stadium.
In terms of playoff seeding, too much remains at stake.
Though the Packers (13-3) clinched the NFC’s top seed (and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs) with Sunday night’s 37-10 romp over the Vikings, the Bucs (12-4) still can earn the No. 2 seed, which would assure them of a second home playoff contest if they win the first.
It’s all predicated on a triumph Sunday against the Panthers in a game switched to a 4:25 kickoff by the NFL.
Currently, the Bucs own the No. 3 seed, one spot behind the Rams (12-4). If the Bucs defeat Carolina and the Rams fall at home to the 49ers next Sunday, the Bucs earn the second seed. If both win, the Rams keep the No. 2 spot by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker; Los Angeles defeated the Bucs in September.
A Bucs loss makes things a bit more messy. If the Panthers pull off the upset, the Bucs fall to at least the No. 3 seed and could drop to the fourth in a couple of scenarios.
Example: If the Bucs and Rams both lose, the Cowboys (11-5) top the Eagles and the Seahawks upset the Cardinals, the Bucs, Rams and Cowboys all would finish as 12-5 division champs. Dallas would earn the No. 2 seed based on the best conference record among the three. Los Angeles would be third and the Bucs fourth.
NFC playoff standings
1. Packers (13-3)
2. Rams (12-4)
3. Bucs (12-4)
4. Cowboys (11-5)
5. Cardinals (11-5)
6. 49ers (9-7)
7. Eagles (9-7)
Still in contention: New Orleans (8-8)
* The division champions earn the top four seeds and are seeded based on overall record. The three wild-card teams are seeded fifth through seventh, also based on overall record.
* The Rams, who haven’t yet clinched the NFC West, remain ahead of the Bucs based on the head-to-head tiebreaker (the Rams defeated Tampa Bay in September).
* The Cowboys remain ahead of the Cardinals because they have clinched the NFC East. Arizona still can win its division and finish ahead of Dallas.
• • •
Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter to get updates and analysis on the latest team and NFL news from Bucs beat writer Joey Knight.
Stay updated on the Buccaneers
Subscribe to our free Bucs RedZone newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options