There have been quite a few scenarios thrown around, but the NFL has narrowed their options to just two.
The NFL is more than likely going to play a 16-game season, which means they will play Week 2's games the weekend of Jan. 5-6, which was slated for wild-card games. The postseason would then begin the following weekend with a total of eight playoff teams instead of 12. There would only be one wild-card team from each conference instead of three.
The other option up for debate is to cancel all of Week 2's games (15). That would mean 30 teams would play 15 games this season while the San Diego Chargers play 16. If the NFL decides to go with this option, the 12-team playoff format will stay intact.
In the past, there have been two weeks in-between the conclusion of the Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl, but this year, there is only one week separating the two. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said moving the Super Bowl back one week is not an option.
There are several reasons why Buccaneer Magazine feels the NFL is leaning toward playing a 16-game season and eliminating two wild-card teams from each conference in the playoffs.
The most obvious reason comes from looking back at past year's NFL playoff brackets. The only wild-card team that has won the Super Bowl was last year's champions-the Baltimore Ravens. But even though the Ravens won the Super Bowl, they were the highest seeded wild-card team and had a home game in the playoffs. Last season, all four of the lowest seeded playoff teams were eliminated in the wild-card round.
The last time a fifth- or sixth-seeded team reached a conference championship game was when Jacksonville defeated Buffalo and Denver to reach the AFC Championship Game in 1997 (1996 season). The Jaguars, however, lost to the Patriots in that game.
Another positive of playing Week 2's games in the weekend of Jan. 5-6 would be the fact that the NFL players would be able to collect one more game check. One game check might not be that big of a deal for some of the higher paid players, but it could be very important for players who are earning near the league minimum.
How will all of this affect the Buccaneers? It all depends on the NFL's decision on Tuesday.
If the NFL plays a 16-game season and eliminates three wild-card teams, then a record of 9-7 or maybe even 10-6 will not be good enough to get a team in the playoffs. In this scenario, the pressure to win the NFC Central Division will be doubled.
In this scenario, the Buccaneers would have their home opener on Oct. 7 against the Green Bay Packers and would finish the regular season with three-straight home games against the Saints, Ravens (Saturday night) and Eagles.
The second scenario would eliminate the much-anticipated Bucs-Eagles game from occurring in the regular season, but would leave two more spots for the Buccaneers to secure in the playoffs.
Under head coach Tony Dungy, the Buccaneers are 0-3 on the road in the playoffs. However, Tampa Bay is 2-0 at home in the postseason. Winning their division and earning home field advantage were two of the Buccaneers' goals this season, but with two less playoff spots in each conference and the playoff bye week eliminated, home field advantage throughout the playoffs might turn into a necessity.
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