The Tampa Bay Buccaneers now have company at 6-6 and are on the outside looking in at the NFC playoff picture.
Because the division-leading New York Giants fell Monday night to the Washington Redskins, there are now four teams tied at 6-6, one game behind in the wild card race: the Redskins, the Dallas Cowboys, the Buccaneers and the Minnesota Vikings.
If the season ended now, the division crowns would go to the Atlanta Falcons, the San Francisco 49ers, the Green Bay Packers and the Giants. The Chicago Bears and the Seattle Seahawks would grab the two wild card spots.
The Bears are sitting in the best shape of the non-divisional leaders at 8-4. They have a two-game lead over the pack at 6-6. The Seahawks, at 7-5, are just one game ahead of the teams on the outside of the playoff picture.
The Redskins are sitting at the top of the heap among the teams that aren’t currently in the playoffs. Tiebreaker rules place Washington over Dallas to get the four wild card teams whittled to three.
Then, since the Redskins have already played and won games against Tampa Bay and Minnesota, a head-to-head sweep puts them as the No. 1 contender.
If the Redskins and Seahawks were to fall off, Dallas would be next in line to grab a wild card spot. The Cowboys would oust the Buccaneers because of their Week 3 win over Tampa Bay and then push Minnesota out of the way because of a better record within the NFC.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers need both the Redskins and the Cowboys to fall off in the wild card race because both teams hold tiebreaker advantages over Tampa Bay. If that were to happen, the Bucs could sneak in because of their Week 8 win over the Vikings.
Remaining Schedule: 24-23-1. Philadelphia (3-9), New Orleans (5-7), St. Louis Rams (5-6-1) and the Atlanta Falcons (11-1).
Which 6-6 team will make the playoffs?
The only way Minnesota sticks around and pushes its way into the playoffs is if everyone else falls out of the race. All three teams—Dallas, Washington and Tampa Bay—hold tiebreaker advantages over the Vikings. The Seahawks would too, because of Minnesota’s Week 9 loss to Seattle.
Remaining Schedule: 32-15-1. Chicago (8-4), St. Louis (5-6-1), Houston (11-1) and Green Bay (8-4).
If the Seahawks end up being tied with any of these teams, they hold a favorable advantage over all except Washington. Seattle would bounce Dallas and Minnesota because of wins in Week 2 and 9, respectively.
The next tiebreaker procedure is conference record and Seattle at 5-4 is better right now than Tampa Bay at 3-5. Washington’s 6-4 conference record trumps everyone.