NFC South Dominance Continues

As a Buccaneers’ fan, you may or may not be capable of rooting for the Falcons, who will be hosting the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game next week.  We can understand either decision here in the Captain’s Blog, but one thing is undeniable: The NFC South has been the NFL’s most competitive division, across the board, since it was created during the 2002 realignment.

Atlanta’s advancement to the NFC title game didn’t really change that.  The Bucs’ division was already the only one of the eight that had already sent all four of its teams to a conference championship game.  Tampa Bay went en route to capturing the title in 2002, and New Orleans did the same in 2009.  Carolina went to the NFC Championship Game in both 2003 and 2005, making it to the Super Bowl in ’03 before losing to New England.  Atlanta was there in 2004, losing to Philly.

No other division can match that this year.  San Francisco is the third NFC West team to make it to the conference title team, but St. Louis is still left out.  New England, obviously, has been there multiple times, as has Baltimore.

Again, whether or not you can stand to root for Atlanta is your business, but it’s worth noting that the South could also be the first division since realignment to get all four of its teams into the Super Bowl.  The Bucs’ division is already the only one that has crowned two different Super Bowl champions, and there’s a chance, of course, that could become three this year.

The Buccaneers kicked off the NFL’s newest division in grand fashion in 2002, winning Super Bowl XXXVII.  Since then, no other division has consistently been in the running for the title as the NFC South.  Whether or not you root for other teams in the division, it’s clear that winning in the NFC South really means something, and that is good for the Buccaneers.

Who Do I Root For? (Week 14)

Welcome to our newest Captain’s Blog feature, wherein we try to sort out the more complicated NFC playoff implications of each weekend in the season’s stretch drive, so that you, the Tampa Bay fan and Sunday NFL viewer, can know exactly which outcomes are best for the Buccaneers.

(Or, potentially, you can complete disagree with our choices and tell us why in the comments below.  That’s your right.)

Here at “Who Do I Root For?” Enterprises, we feel like we should explain something about the methods we use to make our weekly picks, because it probably wasn’t clear enough in previous weeks.

See, when we suggest which teams to root for in other games that have a two-sided bearing on the NFC playoff race, we are doing so under the assumption that the Buccaneers are also going to win that week.  That can make a big difference. Continue reading

Seahawks Gain Edge in NFC

Russell Wilson’s 97-yard drive in Chicago on Sunday and Seattle’s subsequent 16-13 win in overtime not only cost the Bears their hold on the NFC North but it put the Seahawks in the pole position for the final lap of the NFC Wild Card race.

Seattle, of course, will still be trying to make up the 1.5-game difference in the NFC West standings with San Francisco, but at the very least they now control their own playoff destiny.  That’s because the other two teams that went into Week 13 with 6-5 records, the Buccaneers and Vikings, both lost to fall to 6-6.  No tiebreaker necessary at the moment; the Seahawks have the #6 seed and will be guaranteed of at least that spot if they win out.

But, of course, winning out is a tall order, especially since the Seahawks have three more division games to play and they are currently 0-3 against their West opponents.  All of the 6-6 NFC teams – a club that also includes Dallas and would grudgingly welcome the Redskins if they beat the Giants Monday night – have plenty of reason to believe they can make up that one-game difference and pass (at least) the Seahawks to get into the postseason. Continue reading

Who Do I Root For? (Week 13)

Welcome to our new Captain’s Blog feature, wherein we try to sort out the more complicated NFC playoff implications of each weekend in the season’s stretch drive, so that you, the Tampa Bay fan and Sunday NFL viewer, can know exactly which outcomes are best for the Buccaneers.

(Or, potentially, you can complete disagree with our choices and tell us why in the comments below.  That’s your right.) Continue reading

The Ones to Watch

As we discussed in Monday’s updated look at the NFC playoff race, the Buccaneers are very much in the thick of the Wild Card hunt but the NFC South title is almost out of reach, given Atlanta’s four-game lead with five to play.  That latter scenario actually makes this week’s Thursday night game a pretty easy call for Buccaneer fans: as much as it probably hurts, it makes sense to root for Atlanta to defeat the 5-6 Saints.

We’ll get to the issue of “Who Do I Root For?” regarding the rest of Week 13′s schedule on Friday.  Right now we want to look at the NFC homestretch as a whole and identify the games, outside of Tampa Bay’s own, that are likely to have the most bearing on the Bucs’ playoff hopes.  The Thursday-night NFC South showdown is definitely one of them.

First, here’s how the Wild Card picture in the NFC currently looks after the division leaders Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago and the New York Giants:

Team Rec. Conf. Rec.
1. Green Bay 7-4 3-5
2. Seattle 6-5 4-4
3. Tampa Bay 6-5 3-5
4. Minnesota 6-5 4-4
5. Washington 5-6 5-4
6. Dallas 5-6 4-5
7. New Orleans 5-6 3-4

We’ve included conference record in this table because it is the most common tiebreaker in Wild Card situations, and because it is currently the reason that Seattle is holding on to the second spot over Tampa Bay.

Given those seven competitors, here are seven games that Buccaneer fans are going to be watching closely over the next five weeks.  None of Tampa Bay’s own games are included because, well, it’s quite obvious how important those are to the Bucs’ playoff hopes. Continue reading

No Easy Roads

The Buccaneers have forced their way into the thick of the NFC playoff race with a four-game winning streak and five victories in the last six weeks.  If they are going to finish that race with one of the top six spots, they’re going to have to earn it.

But they’re not the only ones.

The NFC field of playoff hopefuls features 10 teams at or above .500 after 10 games.  Many of those hopefuls, the Buccaneers included, face upcoming schedules that offer little margin for error.  Tampa Bay’s remaining opponents have a combined winning percentage of .600, for example…but that doesn’t even put the Bucs at the top of the list.  Let’s take a look. Continue reading