Yardbarker Horiz

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Playoffs Watch: Week 8

After a 3-13 2009, who would have believed a Playoff Watch would officially begin in Week 8 of 2010?  Welcome as we track the playoff scenarios for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers!

Think it's too early?  No way -- a distinct split is growing in the NFC, and the Buccaneers need to stay on the right side of it.  There are five teams with 5 wins, 5 teams with 4 wins, 1 team with 3 wins, and 5 teams with two wins or less.  If the 5-win and 4-win teams can continue to drive the 3-or-fewer-win teams down they can start forcing eliminations and improve their own playoff chances.

The Buccaneers are a case in point -- if Tampa Bay did not defeat the Arizona Cardinals last weekend, the then 4-3 Buccaneers would be on the outside looking in at 4-3 Arizona and 4-3 New Orleans due to head-to-head losses.  But Arizona is currently on the outside looking in instead.  Every game has dire consequences this time of year!

The chart below is a snapshot of "if the season ended today".  The (+) means the Buccaneers would win the tiebreaker if Tampa Bay finishes with the same record (because of a head-to-head win).  A (-) means the Buccaneers would lose the same tiebreaker scenario.  Tampa Bay has played four NFC games so far this season and owns the tiebreaker against three of them (which shows why conference games are so important).

Remember that division winners, regardless of record, make the playoffs.  Here is how the NFC breaks down as of today:

Division Winners With First Round Bye
5-2 (East) New York Giants
5-2 (South) Atlanta Falcons

Division Winners With First Round Home Game
5-2 (North) Green Bay Packers
4-3 (West) Seattle Seahawks

5-2 (South) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
5-3 (South) New Orleans Saints (-)

Outside Looking In
4-3 (East) Philadelphia Eagles
4-3 (North) Chicago Bears
4-4 (West) St. Louis Rams (+)
4-4 (East) Washington Redskins
3-4 (West) Arizona Cardinals (+)
2-5 (North) Minnesota Vikings
2-5 (North) Detroit Lions
2-6 (West) San Francisco 49ers
1-6 (South) Carolina Panthers (+)
1-6 (East) Dallas Cowboys

The Buccaneers remaining schedule contains two games against Atlanta, an one game each against Seattle, New Orleans, Washington, Detroit, San Francisco.  From the chart you can see that both wildcard teams could easily come from the NFC South this season.

Finally, it is pretty clear that the NFC West is not as strong this season as the other divisions, which means getting the #1 Wildcard Spot (where the Buccaneers are now) could provide the best matchup for the first round of the playoffs, since the top Wildcard plays at the worst Division Winner.

So much to consider, but first and foremost the Buccaneers need to keep winning!


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