There are only three games left in the season, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a spot that almost nobody expected them to be in.
A team that was expected to tank for a top draft pick this year might have both found a No. 1 pick to be their quarterback while managing to win the division and host a playoff game. Baker Mayfield had a signature game last Sunday against the Packers and it has forced everyone to once again put some respect on the Bucs name.
It has also put the team in a position to punch a playoff ticket, either as a Wild Card team or as the outright division winner in the NFC South. Right now the latter is the most likely scenario for the Bucs -- as well as the most ideal -- and Sunday's game against the Jaguars will go a long way in helping them get there.
Buccaneers playoff chances and clinching scenarios in Week 16
UPDATE -- The Buccaneers can clinch a playoff berth next week with a win over the Saints. A win would also clinch a second-straight NFC South title.
The Bucs can't clinch anything this week, but that doesn't mean there isn't a ton on the line against the Jaguars. A few different clinching scenarios can get put in place for next Sunday against the Saints, but one thing that cannot happen is the Bucs falling out of the playoff picture or first place with a loss.
A win, however, goes a long way in potentially setting up a fabulous end of the year for the Bucs.
Thanks to the Saints loss on Thursday, the Bucs can win the NFC South next weekend even with a loss against the Jaguars today. Tampa Bay would have the full tiebreaker over New Orleans and enough of a lead over the rest of the division with just one game left after that to wrap things up.
In that scenario, where the Bucs lose to Jacksonville, Tampa Bay would need the Colts to beat the Falcons today in order to avoid a potential nightmare scenario. Atlanta is still technically alive and would have a key win over a team the Bucs lost to -- Indianapolis. That would factor into a tiebreaker that deals with records against similar opponents, and would force the Bucs into a position of needing to win out to avoid missing the playoffs.
As has been the case the last handful of games -- and obviously -- the best and easiest path for the Bucs is to simply win games. That makes everything easy, as the Bucs continue to control their destiny and the only team that can stand in their way is them.
Latest NFC Playoff Picture (Week 16)
Here's how the rest of the NFC playoff picture looks heading into Christmas:
1. San Francisco 49ers (11-3) -- Clinched NFC West
2. Philadelphia Eagles (10-4) -- Clinched Playoff Berth
3. Detroit Lions (11-4) -- Clinched NFC North
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7)
5. Dallas Cowboys (10-4) -- Clinched Playoff Berth
6. Los Angeles Rams (8-7)
7. Seattle Seahawks (8-7)
Wild Card Hunt
8. Minnesota Vikings (7-8)
9. Green Bay Packers (7-8)
10. Atlanta Falcons (7-8)
11. New Orleans Saints (7-8)