Entering Week 17, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the same number of victories as the Washington Redskins and one fewer than the Green Bay Packers. But the chances the Bucs earn the final NFC wild-card spot are far, far more remote.
Here are the playoff scenarios the Bucs will need to have happen — and let’s just say their fans will also be fans of half a dozen other teams, plus one other wild and unlikely result occurring.
First, the Bucs must beat the Carolina Panthers. That’s not wild, considering Cam Newton has struggled with his accuracy lately, the game is in Tampa and the Bucs already have beaten them once this season in Charlotte. But that’s the (sort of) easy part.
Then they’d need five teams to lose: the Packers, the Houston Texans, the Indianapolis Colts, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Seattle Seahawks. Yes, amazingly, the Bucs are rooting against two AFC teams to win. (It comes down to strength of victory and other arcane tiebreakers.)
The Packers could lose, sure. It’s a tough game on the road with the division on the line. The Texans and Colts could lose, and no one would be shocked. The Cowboys can beat the Eagles even with rested starters, right? Of course. The tough one would be the Seahawks losing to the San Francisco 49ers; that’s the one that we’re not feeling so hot about.
But then on top of that five-game parlay, the Bucs need the unlikeliest of unlikelihood: a tie between the Washington Redskins and New York Giants. Rooting for ties is tricky business, yeah? Although there have been two in the NFL in 2016 (out of 240 regular-season games thus far), which is considered a lot for a single season.
And not that it matters, but there have been only four ties in the 84-year history of the Redskins-Giants rivalry, and three of those came in 1960 and earlier. The last tie game between the two teams was in 1997, and even with the new overtime rules there has been a grand total of six ties in the entire NFL since then. Six!
So yeah, don’t make postseason plans just yet, Bucs fans. The odds of it all happening? ESPN.com has it at a 0.0016 percent chance, or roughly a 60,000-to-1 chance.
Losing to the New Orleans Saints last week hurt. But then again, you could argue that any of the other six Tampa Bay losses were almost equally as painful. Such as that ghastly loss in Week 3 to the Los Angeles Rams in Tampa — in which the Bucs allowed 37 points! The Rams would score more than 21 points only once the rest of the season, woof.
By and large, this season has been a success. The Buccaneers endured a head-coaching chance in the offseason from Lovie Smith to Dirk Koetter and overcame a 3-5 start to win five in a row and ensure at least a .500 record and possibly a better mark, depending on what happens in Week 17, than both Super Bowl teams from February.
But making the playoffs is no longer about Jameis Winston carving up the Panthers. It’s about that and cashing in every favor with every higher power the team members ever have come into contact with it. And that still might not be enough to get them in.
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