Just three weeks ago the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 3-1 and owned sole possession of first place in the NFC South. After Sunday, the Bucs are losers of three straight games and are free falling down the standings and playoff picture.
New Orleans re-entered the division race with a win over the Colts which was helped by an Atlanta loss in Tennessee. Carolina even found a way to win and mathematically stay alive in the division race -- which goes to show how ugly things are in the NFC South that a 1-6 team still has a shot.
Carolina's shot is very much an outside one, but things tightened up in a big way between the Bucs, Saints, and Falcons after Week 8.
Updated NFC South standings after Week 8
The good news for the Bucs is that the Falcons lost, which means Tampa Bay didn't lose any ground on catching Atlanta. The bad news for both teams is that the Saints won in Indianapolis, which sinks the Bucs to third place.
New Orleans winning opens up a path for the Saints to reclaim control of the division next week. The Falcons get a tough game against the Vikings, although it appears Kirk Cousins won't be part of the action after being carted off the field in Week 8. New Orleans has the Bears at home, which is a game that could be a trap but is probably going to be a win.
Here's where thing stand after Week 8:
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay gets a feisty Houston Texans team in a game that it's hard to tell how it will pan out. It's a matchup the Bucs should win, and it's hard to see the team losing four straight games. That being said, there's been nothing to suggest the Bucs will magically turn things around, and need a win over the Texans next week to not only get back into the win column but stop the free fall they've been in since the bye week.
It's pretty close to a must-win game for the Bucs, since they'll face the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers in the following weeks. Another loss on Sunday to Houston could push the team down a slippery slope that could end their season before Thanksgiving arrives.
All of that being said, the Bucs are still only a game behind the Saints and Falcons. The Bucs blew a golden opportunity to run away with the division, but the race remains wide open and Tampa Bay -- for at least now -- is very much alive.