The final four weeks of the season are upon us. While the wild card spots are murky, the contenders for the coveted top overall seed in the NFC are coming into focus. There’s currently a three-way tie between the Buccaneers, the Green Bay Packers, and the Arizona Cardinals, all of whom sport a 10-3 record. The tiebreaker currently puts the Packers at 1, Bucs at 2, and Cardinals at 3.
Who has the inside track? What do the Bucs need to happen to secure the top seed?
The Buccaneers Need a Better Overall Record Than Packers
This may seem self-evident, but if both teams end the season tied, the Packers would win a tiebreaker with a better overall conference record. Green Bay has an 8-2 conference mark, while the Bucs have a 6-3 record. So winning out and matching at 14-3 wouldn’t be good enough for the Bucs. The Packers MUST lose one more game.
And how likely is that to happen? Not all that much. Green Bay travels to a wounded Baltimore this weekend, who is short handed in the secondary and possibly at quarterback. The Packers are a 5.5-point favorite. The Packers then host the Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings before ending the season on the road at Detroit. Green Bay will be favored substantially in every one of those games.
This scenario remains the same even if the Cardinals, Packers and Bucs win out and all sit at 14-3, as the Cardinals also have a 6-3 record and would lose a tiebreaker to the Packers.
If the Packers Lose and the Bucs and Cardinals Win Out, the Buccaneers Would Win a Tiebreaker Over the Cardinals.
The Buccaneers are in good shape if they were to be locked up with the Cardinals for the top overall spot at 14-3. The teams have a matching conference record at 6-3. The Bucs currently own the strength of victory over the Cardinals at .492 to .446, which is a significant difference. The Cardinals host the one-win Lions, the Colts, the Cowboys, and the Seahawks down the stretch, so that will present a challenge to up that number to the Bucs’ percentage.
In terms of record vs. common opponents (6 games), the Buccaneers have a 3-1 mark to the Cardinals’ 2-2 record. Each team has 2 more games against common opponents, so if the Bucs win those games (both against Carolina), then they would claim the edge in this regard as well.
There Are a Number of Variables That Are Impossible to Predict, Such as One or More Teams Losing Multiple Games.
In that case, it would depend on the loss (conference or non-conference, involving a common opponent, etc.) and how it affects the teams’ respective tiebreaking circumstances. The Cowboys could also sneak into the mix, or the Rams could steal the division from the Cardinals if they stumble. The Rams hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bucs.
One thing is certain: as long as the Buccaneers do what they should and take care of business in the final four weeks, they have done everything to put themselves in position for the top seed. That’s all Bucs’ fans can reasonably ask for.
For more on this and everything Buccaneers check back here hourly at BucsReport.com.