Copyright 2002 Pewter Report/PewterReport.com
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At 9-3, one would think the Buccaneers would not have much pressure on them in terms of securing a playoff spot and winning its division, but depending on how the rest of the regular season unfolds, Tampa Bay may have to win its final four games of the regular season in order to win the NFC South Division.
Although they haven't clinched a playoff spot yet, all the Bucs need to do in order to secure its ticket to the post-season is win one more game and have the New York Giants win or tie in one of its final four contests.
So, it's not really a matter of whether or not the Bucs will make the playoffs. The bigger question is where exactly will the Pewter Pirates position themselves in the NFC playoff rac?.
The Buccaneers will finish the regular season with contests at home against Atlanta and Pittsburgh along with road trips to Detroit and Chicago. While Tampa Bay's final four opponents have a combined record of 21-25-2, two of them are playoff contenders and the contest in Chicago will likely be played in temperatures under 40 degrees, which the Bucs have never won in.
Tampa Bay is currently the No. 2 seed behind 9-3 Philadelphia due to the fact that the Eagles defeated the Buccaneers earlier in the season. That means the Eagles have to drop a game and the Buccaneers have to win out in order for the Pewter Pirates to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
But before the Bucs can worry about getting home-field advantage, they must first win the NFC South Division, and they may have to win out in order to do that, too.
The following six teams will likely be in the playoffs, but all of them are jockeying for positions. Check out their current positions along with each team's remaining schedule. You might be surprised to see some of the team's remaining schedules.
No. 1 PHILADELPHIA 9-3
Remaining Schedule: at Seattle (4-8), Washington (5-7), at Dallas (5-7), at Detroit (3-9).
*Combined Record Of Remaining Opponents: 17-31
No. 2 TAMPA BAY 9-3
Remaining Schedule: Atlanta (8-3-1), at Detroit (3-9), Pittsburgh (7-4-1), at Chicago (3-9)
*Combined Record Of Remaining Opponents: 21-25-2
No. 3 GREEN BAY 9-3 (Clinched NFC North Division and a home playoff game)
Remaining Schedule: Minnesota (3-9), at San Francisco (8-4), Buffalo (6-6), at NY Jets (6-6)
*Combined Record Of Remaining Opponents: 23-25
No. 4 SAN FRANCISCO 8-4
Remaining Schedule: at Dallas (5-7), Green Bay (9-3), at Arizona (4-8), at St. Louis (5-7)
*Combined Record Of Remaining Opponents: 23-25
No. 5 ATLANTA 8-3-1
Remaining Schedule: at Tampa Bay (9-3), Seattle (4-8), Detroit (3-9), at Cleveland (6-6)
*Combined Record Of Remaining Opponents: 22-26
No. 6 NEW ORLEANS 8-4
Remaining Schedule: at Baltimore (6-6), Minnesota (3-9), at Cincinnati (1-11), Carolina (4-8)
*Combined Record Of Remaining Opponents: 14-34
As you can see, the Saints, who own a tiebreaker with the Bucs in the NFC South Division because they defeated them twice this season, have the easiest remaining schedule of any of the NFC playoff contenders. The Buccaneers still do, however, own a one-game lead over the Saints, but the Pewter Pirates may not be able to afford to lose another game this season due to the strong possibility that the Saints may finish the regular season with a 4-0 record.
Even if the Bucs finish the season with a 12-4 record, they will not get a home playoff game unless they win the NFC South Division. A 13-3 regular season record would guarantee the Bucs the division title and at least one home playoff game. It would also get them a first-round bye in the playoffs.
So if you thought there was a lot riding on this Sunday's contest between the Bucs and Falcons, you were absolutely right. The winner of this Sunday's game will be in first place of the NFC South Division and the winner can also clinch a playoff spot if the Giants lose to or tie the Redskins. But again, making the playoffs is necessarily the main issue of concern.
One has to wonder how the Bucs will rebound from last Sunday's 23-20 loss to the Saints. But if you go by recent history, you'll find that the Bucs have been pretty good about bouncing back from losses this season.
The Bucs went on a five-game winning streak after its opening-day loss to the Saints. And after its second loss of the season, which was to Philadelphia, Tampa Bay won four straight games before losing last Sunday.
If Tampa Bay can win its final four games of the regular season, they will become the first team in franchise history to go an entire season without losing two consecutive games.
The Buccaneers have finished the first three quarters of the season with a 3-1 record, but even an impressive 3-1 finish to the final quarter of the season might not be good enough for the team to obtain of all of its goals in the end. But a 4-0 finish to the regular season would put the Bucs in great position heading into the playoffs.
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