The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will most likely be watching the playoffs once again. Their loss on Sunday was another conference loss that they could not afford as the regular season begins to wind down.
There are currently six teams with a 6-5 or 5-6 record that are jockeying for the final wild card spot in the NFC, assuming no unforeseen implosions from the current division leaders and Green Bay Packers.
The Bucs are currently 6-5, and are on the outside looking in to the postseason as the seventh team in the NFC. They are tied with the 6-5 Seattle Seahawks, but the Seahawks currently win the tiebreak due to a better conference record.
The other 6-5 team is the Minnesota Vikings. Of the five teams fighting for that final spot, the Vikings are the only one against which the Bucs would win a tiebreak scenario, due to their victory in Minnesota earlier this season.
This is the root problem for Bucs playoff scenarios; they only currently own one tiebreaker.
It is possible the Bucs could split with the Saints, but as of now the tiebreaker belongs to New Orleans.
We’ve seen this story before.
The 2012 Bucs are eerily similar to the 2010 Bucs team that went 10-6 but failed to qualify for postseason play. Both teams came in with low expectations and used a very favorable schedule to put themselves into the postseason discussion.
In 2010, they demolished the NFC West, the punching bag of the NFL, by sweeping its four teams. This year they received a similar gift by having the AFC West on their schedule, which currently represents half of their wins.
The Bucs also struggled two years ago against teams that ultimately made the playoffs, with a 2-5 records against those teams. The only two wins came against the Seattle Seahawks, who won their division with a 7-9 record, and the New Orleans Saints in the final game of the season, when the Saints had nothing to play for as their postseason berth was already granted.
This scenario is also true again this season with losses to the division leading New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons along with the wild card-hopeful Redskins, Cowboys and Saints, as earlier mentioned.
They could also possibly face a Falcons team in the last game of the season that would have little incentive for a victory by Week 17.
At least this story should have a happier ending than the previous iteration.
One thing that is drastically different with this team is the talent level. With the additions of Vincent Jackson, LaVonte David, Mark Barron and Doug Martin, this team has a strong core that will make them competitive for the next few years.
There will be playoff football in Tampa soon, just not in 2012.