There's no easy way to say it: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers season is officially on life support after Week 12.
Once again the team had a big opportunity to get back into the NFC South race and undo a lot of the bad things that have happened lately. Just like they have every other time something like this has presented itself, the Bucs went belly up and squandered a chance to jump into a three-way tie for first place.
A win on Sunday over the Colts, coupled with a Falcons win over the Saints, would have locked all three teams into a dead heat for the division crown with tied records and split tiebreakers.
Half of that happened, as the Falcons moved into first place by beating the Saints as New Orleans is now 1-2 against NFC South opponents. The saving grace for New Orleans was the Bucs losing in Indy 27-20 in another embarrassing performance.
The Falcons own a half-tiebreaker over the Bucs and Saints, while Tampa Bay own a half-tiebreaker over New Orleans. Instead of all three teams being 5-6, the Bucs remain stuck in third place and continue to fall further behind the Falcons and Saints as hope for the season fades.
Updated NFC South standings after Week 12
Tampa Bay fell down quick to the Colts, sinking into a 17-3 hole that the team admirably tried to climb out of. Some key players were missing and Baker Mayfield got hurt on the first drive, but it was a game the Bucs not only needed to win but needed to look good in to help turn the season around.
It simply didn't happen, and the Bucs being close is very quickly proving to be not good enough. There's no extra credit for moral victories and a valiant second-half effort doesn't count when the final result is a loss.
Here's how things stand in the NFC South after a pretty critical Sunday of action for the division race:
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It's starting to lose its meaning, but for as bad as things have been the Bucs aren't dead yet. Tampa Bay is just a few games behind the division lead, and four of the last six games are against NFC South opponents.
While it stinks to see the Bucs in this position now, and to see opportunities wasted, a pair of wins over the Saints and Falcons could flip the division once again. Of course, the Bucs will have to actually take advantage of the opportunity, which is something we've yet to see them do.