The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not officially eliminated from playoff contention, but they might as well be. At 8-7 on the season, Jameis Winston and Co. need a whole heck of a lot to happen in order to make a surprise trip to the postseason. By a whole heck of a lot, we mean seven different things, including a tie.
Here’s a look at the scenario that must play out in order for Tampa Bay to play meaningful January football beyond this weekend. It’s a doozy.
Beat the Carolina Panthers
None of this will matter if Tampa Bay is unable to beat Carolina come Sunday. The Buccaneers did take out the defending NFC champions back in Week 5. And with nothing to play for themselves, Cam Newton’s squad seems to have mailed it in. This isn’t necessarily an unlikely outcome here.
Cowboys beat the Eagles
Again, not too unlikely of a scenario. We know the 13-win Dallas Cowboys have nothing to play for. We also know that they are actually going to suit up their stars for the game. At the very least, until it’s out of control. Dallas already beat Philadelphia this season and has only lost two games, both to the New York Giants.
Matt Cassel leads Titans to win over the Texans
Without anything to play for, the AFC South champion Houston Texans are still going to play their starters here. Of course, that’s unlikely to include Lamar Miller due to injury. On the other hand, Tennessee will be forced to start Matt Cassel with Marcus Mariota out with a broken fibula. Relying on Cassel to win any game for your playoff livelihood likely isn’t a good thing.
Colts down the Jaguars
Again, not an incredibly unlikely scenario. Neither of these two teams are playing for much here, so the outcome of the game is less certain than if the game actually meant something. Still, one has to believe the Colts will find a way not to be swept by a Jaguars squad that’s won a grand total of three games, including just once since Week 6.
At the very least, the Colts want to avoid an embarrassment in what could end up being Chuck Pagano’s final game as the team’s head coach. In reality, a bad loss here might put the final nail in the coffin of his career with Indianapolis.
49ers upset the Seahawks at Levi’s
Okay, now it’s getting a bit whacky. No one in their right mind honestly believes the San Francisco 49ers and their talent-stricken roster will be able to take out Russell Wilson’s Seattle Seahawks, right? That would represent one of the biggest upsets of the NFL season.
This is until we realize just how horrendous Seattle has played on the road recently. It has lost its past two games away from CenturyLink, compiling a grand total of 15 points. In those two games, Wilson himself has thrown seven interceptions.
On the other hand, San Francisco is coming off a thrilling late-game win over the Los Angeles Rams. The two-win team has also played much more competitive football at Levi’s stadium than on the road. Still, this has to be seen as a major long shot.
Lions take NFC North from the Packers
The Detroit Lions boast a 6-1 record at Ford Field this season. In those games, Matthew Stafford has thrown 11 touchdowns compared to three interceptions for a 96.3 rating. On the other hand, the Green Bay Packers are a mediocre 3-4 away from Lambeau Field.
This seems to suggest the Lions should be favored here. That’s until we realize they head into Week 17 losers of two consecutive games. Meanwhile, Green Bay itself has won five consecutive to make this Sunday Night Football matchup among the most drama-filled of the NFL season. The Packers should be considered favorites here, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Detroit knock off Aaron Rodgers and Co.
Giants and Redskins play to a tie
For the first time since 1997, the NFL saw two ties in one season, the last of which came when Cincinnati and Washington played to a draw in London back in late October. Since overtime was introduced in 1974, no team has tied twice in the same season. Short of the Redksins and Giants getting paid off by Winston and Co. (insert crab legs joke here), to tie, this isn’t going to happen.
It’s still a fun scenario to look at.