Heading into December, the NFL loves to advertise that just about every team in the league still has a chance to be the Super Bowl champion. Well, maybe not every team – but the league enthusiastically trumpets that a substantial percentage of the 32 runners that started out in September are still alive for a playoff run. That possibility, as thin as it might be in some cases, is what keeps fans engaged even when common sense tells them the prospects are dim for their favorite team.
Actually, in the case of the NFC South, where all four teams are below .500, somebody has to go to the playoffs as division champion, and that includes even the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers playoff chances are currently listed as +270 on DraftKings sportsbook.
Bucs Rest of Season Landscape
The Bucs are losers of six of their last seven games, including a 27-20 defeat to Indianapolis last Sunday. Leading the NFC South are Atlanta and New Orleans, both at 5-6 – and Tampa Bay is right behind at 4-7. Carolina, at 1-10, is the only team in the division that can be written off. If Florida sports betting were legal, placing a wager on Tampa Bay making the playoffs wouldn't be a bad idea for Bucs fans.
While the Bucs would seem to be longshots to win the NFC South, even with the watered-down competition, there is the example of the cross-state Jacksonville Jaguars who, after 11 games in 2022, were also 4-7 and they went on a five-game winning streak to capture the AFC South. Beyond that, the Jags pulled off a miracle comeback in the first round of the playoffs to beat the L.A. Chargers, 31-30. Then, they lost by just seven points, 27-20, to the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
All of that gives hope to Tampa Bay and its fans and the reality is that it’s certainly within the Bucs’ grasp. Tampa Bay’s next game, as well as its final game of the season, are both against the hapless Carolina Panthers. In fact, among the Buccaneers’ last six opponents, only one, Jacksonville, has a winning record at the moment.
Also on the Bucs’ schedule are the two division opponents ahead of them, Atlanta (on Dec. 12) and New Orleans (on Dec. 31), so there is certainly an opportunity for Tampa Bay to rally and win the NFC South. If the Bucs were to win their four remaining division games, they would, at minimum, finish 8-9. Just as a reminder, Tampa Bay did win the NFC South last season with an 8-9 record and went to the playoffs. However, that’s where the dream died as they were routed by Dallas, 31-14, in quarterback Tom Brady’s final NFL game.
Buccaneers Not Only Losing Record Team with Postseason Hopes
This year, the Buccaneers will have to make a playoff run with QB Baker Mayfield nursing a sore ankle. Mayfield finished the loss to the Colts last Sunday in considerable discomfort but he appears ready to go.
Along with Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and New Orleans – all with losing records after 11 games but all with a chance to make the playoffs – there is a handful of other NFL teams who are still in the playoff hunt despite being sub .500 at the moment. In the NFC, the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North and the L.A. Rams in the NFC West are both 5-6 and each has an outside shot of landing one of the conference’s seven playoff berths.
However, in the AFC, any team that’s currently under .500 would need a series of miracles to get into the playoffs. Even the Buffalo Bills, who are 6-6, are feeling pressure to put together a string of wins in December to have a chance at post-season play, especially with two teams that are 6-5 and still on the outside-looking-in, Houston and Denver, surging.
Although Tampa Bay could make the playoffs, the Buccaneers Super Bowl odds are something to avoid, even as a diehard fan of the team in 2023.