The Buccaneers (12-4) went from being an NFC wild card team to being winners of the NFC South in their quest to repeat as Super Bowl champions. But they can still improve their position a bit in the 2021-2022 NFL playoffs.
Tampa Bay is there with Green Bay, the No. 1 seed, as a tough team to beat in the NFC tournament. Below is the range of seeding results for the Buccaneers coming out of Week 18:
How high can the Buccaneers seed in the NFC?
The Buccaneers are the current No. 3 seed behind the Packers and No. 2 Rams.
They will do their best to rise to No. 2 so that they can play two home games in the NFC tournament after not having played either as a wild card in the playoffs last year, until they “host” Super Bowl 55 against the Chiefs. That’s important, because the Buccaneers have lost just one game at Raymond James Stadium this season, to the Saints in Week 15.
To get seed No. 2, it’s simple. The Buccaneers need to beat or tie the Panthers at home on Sunday, while the Rams lose to the 49ers at the same time. The Bucs need to have a better record than the Rams, because they lost to them in Los Angeles in Week 3.
The Buccaneers don’t need to do much to keep No. 3. A win over the Panthers would guarantee at least that, no matter what the Rams do. They could also lose to the Panthers and keep No. 3 with a Cowboys win. That’s because the Bucs have the head-to-head tiebreaker (Week 1 win) criteria over the Cowboys, who can only match the 12-5 Bucs.
There is only one scenario in which the Buccaneers can fall to No. 4 with a loss. If the Rams also lose like the Panthers but must win the NFC West through a loss to the Cardinals, plus the Cowboys win to create a three-way tie at 12-5, the Bucs would have the worst conference record of the teams. at 7-5. That would see the Cowboys (10-2 in the NFC) rise to No. 2 and the Rams (8-4) slide to No. 3.
If the Buccaneers lose to the Panthers, the Rams lose to the 49ers and the Cardinals win the NFC West by beating the Seahawks, the Cardinals would be No. 2, the Buccaneers No. 3 and the Cowboys No. 4. Dallas would fall there for having lost to Arizona and Tampa Bay. The Rams would then drop to the top wild-card spot at No. 5.
No. 3 is the most likely seed result for the Buccaneers, but No. 2 is high on the line, as the 49ers (9-7) will give the Rams a tough game as they battle for a wild card spot.