When (and how) can the Tampa Bay Buccaneers clinch the NFC South?

More like when WILL the Bucs clinch the NFC South and a playoff berth?
Jacksonville Jaguars v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jacksonville Jaguars v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

Less than six months ago the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were being pegged as a team likely to tank for a high draft pick to help them rebuild. It turns out the Bucs did land a No. 1 pick at quarterback, Jason Licht signed him in free agency rather than blowing things up to tank.

Tanking was never an option, an idea that perplexed folks in the offseason to the point of mocking the Bucs for thinking they'd be able to compete. With just two games left in the season, Tampa Bay is on the verge of proving them all wrong by punching a playoff ticket and clinching a second straight NFC South title.

More than that, the Bucs are a win away from definitively and outright winning the division with as a top team in the conference.

Last year the Bucs won the division with a losing record, something that many pointed to as a reason a Tom Brady-less team would be even worse. Baker Mayfield has come in and helped reinvent the team's identity and channeled things that made those early Brady teams special.

It's Baker's moxie that has injected a new energy into the team and set it on a course to win the NFC South in a way everyone can be proud of.

When can the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win the NFC South?

The Buccaneers are just a week away from potentially locking up the division and punching their ticket to the playoffs. Thanks to the win over Jacksonville, coupled with a loss by the New Orleans Saints on Thursday, Tampa Bay can clinch the NFC South with a win next Sunday.

Atlanta is hanging around thanks to a win over the Colts on Sunday, but they're pretty much out of time to make anything happen. The Falcons would need the Bucs to lose out in order to have a chance at winning the division, as they trail Tampa Bay in record against common opponents and record against conference opponents.

That's the price paid for failing to put the Bucs away a few weeks ago when the Falcons had the chance. Now they need a miracle -- or a miraculous meltdown by Tampa Bay -- to win the division.

All the Bucs need to is win one more game, it's as simple as that. Losing out would be a meltdown that proves the team isn't worthy of a playoff spot, but the way they've played over the course of a four-game winning streak suggests that an entirely new level to the team has been unlocked.

It's a level that has them heading toward the playoffs as one of the most dangerous teams in the bracket.

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