As promised, we will continue to monitor both the Buccaneers and the Dolphins chances of making the post-season and with three games to go, both are still very relevant in the playoff picture.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With the Bucs 16-11 win over the Saints Sunday, Tampa Bay maintains its spot at 8-5 as the outright sixth seed in the NFC Wildcard picture. Obviously, the Buccaneers need no other help. They win their remaining three games (tall order), and they are in the playoffs. Tampa Bay has the huge showdown Sunday night at the Cowboys.
As for being tied still with the Atlanta Falcons for the NFC South lead at 8-5 and the potential to host a playoff game as the division champ, here’s the latest: Both Tampa Bay and Atlanta are 3-1 in the South and that will be the first tiebreaker. Both teams finish week 16 and 17 alternating playing the Saints and the Panthers. Those games could decide the division and/or the tiebreaker.
Next tiebreaker will be best won/loss % in common games. This is currently advantage Falcons. They have a one game lead over the Bucs in common opponents and if both win out, Atlanta will get that tiebreaker. So, obviously Buc fans are rooting for at least one more Falcon loss to break the current tie. It also gets crazy with who loses to whom in the last three weeks. So, we won’t go there, yet.
The Bucs are a half game in front of the Redskins (7-5-1) who have two of their remaining games at home and a full game in front of the Packers and the Vikings (7-6). Washington does play the Giants, who currently occupy the five spot in the NFC, in the the final game of the season at D.C. And, Green Bay and Minnesota play at Lambeau in two weeks, and in both of those, someone has to take a loss.
So likely, the Bucs can still lose one of their final three and get in, but that becomes scarier.
As for the Dolphins
Their 26-23 win over the Cardinals Sunday puts them back in the picture for the AFC Wildcard spots. At 8-5 they are back tied with the Denver Broncos, who lost in Nashville for the sixth spot. They did not play this year, and so, Denver currently holds the tiebreaker with a better conference record. But the Broncos have the tougher finish playing the Patriots this week, at the Chiefs and finishing with Oakland at home. All of those teams are contending for not only the playoffs but division titles and home field advantage, etc. It is going to be tough for Broncos to win all of those and they may lose a couple.
The Dolphins finish with three games against the AFC East playing at the Jets this Saturday night, at Buffalo and then hosting the Patriots on New Year’s Day. While Miami is still alive mathematically for the East title, one more Pats win or Dolphins loss ends that. What’s more realistic is the Fins win their next two (albeit on the road) and put themselves in position for the Wildcard.
The good news for Miami is the Ravens lost Monday night and dropped a game back at 7-6. They and 7-6 Tennessee both have won head to head over the Dolphins and obviously, win a tiebreaker against them, if it comes to it.
So, again, the Dolphin best hope is win out and get a Denver loss. Or lose only once, get two losses from the Broncos and at least one more from each of Titans and Ravens.
We will continue to keep track of it all.