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.
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