There are only four weeks left in the season and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a spot almost nobody thought they'd be.
A win over the Falcons on Sunday propelled the Bucs back into first place in the NFC South and slid them back into the playoff picture. We're still an equal distance away from the team firing everybody and owning a Top 10 draft pick as we are from them hosting a playoff game, but for the first time in weeks, the needle is pinging toward the latter.
There's still a lot that can happen over the next four weeks and the Bucs have their work cut out if making the playoffs is the goal. Tampa Bay heads up to Green Bay for what is all of a sudden a de facto playoff game against the Packers, then comes home to host the division-leading Jaguars.
If that's not rough enough, the Bucs final two games are against the Saints and Panthers -- one game that could swing the standings and another that could help or hurt the Bucs with potential tiebreak scenarios.
Updated NFC Playoff Picture and projected matchups after Week 14
There was some movement all over the NFC Playoff Picture this weekend. Not only is Tampa Bay back in the mix, but San Francisco now owns the No. 1 seed thanks to Dallas beating Philadelphia on Sunday night.
Detroit losing stings even more those fans as it potentially knocked the Lions out of having a real shot at getting a first-round bye.
1. 49ers (10-3)
2. Cowboys (10-3)
3. Lions (9-4)
4. Buccaneers (6-7)
5. Eagles (10-3)
6. Vikings (7-6)
7. Packers (6-7)
In The Hunt
8. Rams (6-7)
9. Seahawks (6-7)
10. Falcons (6-7)
11. Saints (6-7)
12. Giants (5-8)
13. Bears (5-8)
Green Bay's loss on Monday Night didn't sink them out of the playoff picture, rather it created a gnarly logjam for the final Wild Card spot. This actually helps the Bucs, as a win next week would keep two possible paths to the playoffs open: winning the NFC South or sneaking in as a Wild Card team.
Tampa Bay already has a tiebreaker over the Vikings and getting one over the Packers could make the difference between snagging that No. 7 seed or getting boxed out. Next week's game at Lambeau just got a lot more interesting than it already was.
Based on all of that, here's what the matchups would look like if the playoffs started today:
- (2) Cowboys vs. (7) Packers
- (3) Lions vs. (6) Vikings
- (4) Buccaneers vs. (5) Eagles
For the fourth straight year, the Bucs would be playing an NFC East team in the Wild Card, with things hopefully going better than last year. Tampa Bay went up to Washington to beat the Commanders back in 2021 and beat the Eagles at home in 2022, and we all know what happened last year against the Cowboys.
To be fair, the Eagles are reeling as of late, losing back-to-back games in blowout fashion and not looking nearly as explosive on offense as they had earlier in the year. Philly is also a battle-tested team and a different version of them can be expected in the postseason which might create a big problem for the Bucs.
Philly controls its own destiny, though, and winning out would flip the NFC East and instead send Dallas back to Tampa Bay for a Wild Card rematch. There's still a lot of season left, but it's looking like whoever wins the NFC South will host whoever fails to win the NFC East this season.