While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t play on Thursday Night Football, the result of the game greatly impacts their chances of both making the playoffs and claiming another NFC South crown.
The New Orleans Saints had a golden opportunity to get back into the thick of the NFC Playoff picture with a win over the Los Angeles Rams, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the Saints now fall to the fringe of the Wild Card race and are now hoping for a miracle to remain in reach of an NFC South title.
Meanwhile, the Bucs have already won big without even having played a down this week. New Orleans losing means Tampa Bay can enter clinching territory depending on what happens on Sunday against the Jaguars. It also means that some much-needed breathing room has been provided between the Bucs and Saints, with Tampa Bay having a wider margin for error than it had coming into Thursday night.
Basically, if the Bucs take care of business on Sunday — against a Jaguars team unlikley to have Trevor Lawrence under center — their playoff chances take the sort of uptick that will make all of the doubters blush.
Updated NFC South Standings after Saints lose in Week 16
Here’s where things stand after the Saints dropped a golden opportunity on Thursday Night:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New Orleans Saints
L, Rams 30-22
We’ve reached the point, as unbelievable as it may seem, where we can realistically ask when the Bucs can clinch the NFC South. It won’t be this weekend, but a win over the Jaguars will bring them one step closer to punching a playoff ticket.
If the Bucs win on Sunday, it would set up a clinching scenario on New Year’s Eve against the Saints. A victory there would give Tampa Bay a full tiebreaker over New Orleans and a three game lead with one game left.
Tampa Bay might still be in a clinching scenario even with a loss but their playoff odds would skyrocket — and essentially be locked in — if the team can take care of business on Sunday.
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