TAMPA, Fla. — While some NFL teams will mail it in this weekend because they’ve already clinched a playoff spot, or been eliminated; the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going all-in to get a win Sunday.
There are a plethora of scenarios for the Buccaneers if they take care of business and beat the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday afternoon. But before we get to the Bucs, we have to see which teams can still squeeze into the playoffs or win their division.
The NFL broke it down thusly:
ARIZONA CARDINALS (11-5) (vs. Seattle (6-10), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, FOX)
Arizona clinches NFC West division title with:
ARI win + LAR loss
LOS ANGELES RAMS (12-4) (vs. San Francisco (9-7), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, FOX)
RAMS clinch NFC West division title with:
LAR win or tie OR ARI loss or tie
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (8-8) (at Atlanta (7-9), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, FOX)
Saints clinch playoff berth with:
NO win + SF loss
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (9-7) (at Los Angeles Rams (12-4), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, FOX)
49ers clinch playoff berth with:
SF win or tie OR NO loss or tie
With that, depending on which of those scenarios happens will determine Tampa Bay’s road to a Super Bowl championship repeat. The first thing we do know for a fact is that if the Green Bay Packers win, the NFC Championship will go through Lambeau Field in late January
Beyond that, everything depends on the final slate of games. The best thing that could happen for the Bucs is a victory against Carolina and the Los Angeles Rams losing to the San Francisco 49ers. A 49ers win puts them in the playoffs meaning they have nothing to lose. The Rams can only move up in playoff seeding.
If the 49ers win, it would set up the Bucs for a second-round home playoff game, if Tampa beats Carolina.
Two home playoff games would be something the city of Tampa Bay hasn’t seen since 1979! Fun fact, the Buccaneers haven’t scored a single point in a second home playoff game in the team’s history.
That’s a good scenario, but what if the Rams and Bucs both win? That would most likely set up a Wild Card game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Raymond James Stadium. If the Rams win and the Bucs lose, it will most likely set up a Wild Card game against the 49ers.
Again, the first order of business is beating Carolina. Then Bucs fans should cheer for the 49ers to knock off the Rams.
Tampa Bay is playing the Panthers two weeks after they demolished them in Carolina, 32-6. The Panthers franchise is in disarray as rumors of Coach Matt Rhule’s future remain and the team continues searching for an answer at quarterback. The Panthers haven’t come within eight points of any opponent since a 27-21 loss to Washington on November 21.