We’ve come to the final weekend of the regular season and for the Dolphins and the Bucs December has been a wild ride.
First, the Dolphins got hot heading into the month winning six straight games and making themselves relevant in the AFC Wildcard picture. Then, Baltimore humbled them, ended their win streak and at that point took away Miami’s ability to win out and control their own destiny.
But, alas, the Fins persevered, even after losing QB Ryan Tannehill to a knee sprain in the second half of Arizona game three weeks ago, won three more in a row, and now find themselves at 10-5 headed into the regular season finisher with the Patriots. And that record with tiebreakers has them locked into the Wildcard without having to do anything Sunday. Tremendous finish to the season.
So, now here are the two simple scenarios remaining for the Dolphins for this weekend:
One, Miami will be the #6 seed in the AFC and play the North champion Steelers in two weekends if they lose to the Patriots, or if Kansas City wins at the Chargers later in the day.
Two, the Dolphins will be the #5 seed and play the South Champion Texans in two weekends, if they win over the Pats and the Chiefs lose.
Again, Dolphins IN, and only playing/scoreboard watching for seeding in the AFC.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneers are not as fortunate in their scenarios and are likely out of the NFC Wildcard.
With the Bucs loss to the Saints last Saturday dropping them to 8-7, their playoff hopes are hanging like the hero in a movie by his fingernails over the cliff.
So here goes: to have any hope at winning a tiebreaker with Green Bay, the Bucs must win first Sunday in an early game with Carolina to get to 9-7.
Then, the Bucs must have a Green Bay loss in the Sunday night game at the Lions. Tampa Bay loses a headed to head tiebreaker to the Lions at 9-7. But before that game is played, they must also have a series of “cosmic-altering” events ALL happen to get into position for the tiebreaker over the Packers on what the NFL calls “strength of victories.”
That simply means that the Buccaneers opponents they have beaten must have a better record overall combined than the Pack’s victim’s wins.
That translates into: Bucs win, and then they need the Colts, Texans, Cowboys and 49ers to also win games throughout the day that mean nothing to them but pride. Good luck with that.
But finally, and most bizarrely, the fifth piece of help is a TIE in the Giants vs. Redskins late afternoon game.
You read that correct, they must have no winner and an overtime tie to eliminate the Redskins. This will hurt the Packers “strength of victory” just enough with the other wins above to get the Bucs the tiebreaker.
Obviously, you would be better off with a scenario that involves “kidnappings” “All night benders” and buses that never find the stadiums than what that is above. But, that’s the Buccaneers reality.
Again, their fate was in their hands last weekend. Had they won combined with the Cowboys beating the Lions Monday, the Bucs were in position to simply win Sunday vs. Carolina (at home) and then get the tiebreaker over the Packers-Lions loser for the final NFC Spot.
Didn’t happen and now, it’s likely “the plug will be pulled” by one of those things above not happening before Green Bay kicks off at Ford Field.
So, bottom line? Dolphins fans are rejoicing and Bucs fans are agonizing.
‘Tis the season, this time of year in the NFL.