The NFC South Division Championship was all right there in front of their eyes
Had they won, the Bucs would have been one game out of the Division lead; but they did not win, and as a result they are 3 games behind the Falcons, with tiebreaker too, that makes it 4 games, with 4 games left. It's time to face up, the Bucs are not NFC South Champ material just yet.

But donít count this team out of the playoffs. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Yes injuries have taken their toll on the Bucs, but they have recovered from injuries all season: With Cody Grimm replacing and improving upon Tanard Jacksonís play, Zuttah replacing Faine, (and Davin Joseph), across the board on both sides of the ball, Bucs backups have played like starters when asked to do so.

The injuries are now starting to make a serious dent in the roster, with Talib especially; he was playing at a pro bowl level, and had a career day against the Redskins last season. E.J. Biggers has stepped up admirably, and Myron Lewis is getting good quality on the job training as are a lot of Bucs players.

Through thick and thin, these Bucs have had their tough goings against the good teams in the league, but they have done what they are supposed to do, beat the lesser teams. Tampa Bay is undefeated against teams with a losing record, and that is what they have coming up on their slate for December, until the last game of the year.

BUCS REMAINING GAMES
Dec 12 @ Washington
Dec 19 DETROIT
Dec 26 SEATTLE
Jan 2 @ New Orleans
All except the last are games against teams with a poor record, who are for the most part playing poorly. Seattle isnít doing too bad lately, but they are 6-6 and will have to travel across the country. The kicker is, all the teams the Bucs are fighting against for a Wild Card spot play each other, and could in effect knock each other out a little.

Even though Minnesota is probably not a threat to enter the Wild Card race, their performance is key because they play three of the four teams the Bucs are fighting against.

The loss to the Falcons hurt the Bucs playoff chances against other teams even in the Wild Card contest because it counted as another conference loss, which gives the Bucs a 5-3 conference mark to the Giants 6-2. The catch is, the Bucs arenít necessarily chasing the NY Giants.

The Meadowlands tenants are tied atop the NFC East with Philadelphia, and the Eagles are also 5-3 in conference play, and represent a better tie breaker opponent for the Bucs to go against for a playoff spot. The two teams play each other on Dec.19th.

Then you have the NFC North, where the Bears are on top of the division. But Chicago is not as good as their record, and they have some tough opponents coming up. Chicago will host New England this weekend and also play at Minnesota on Monday Night 12-20.

The Bears have a one game lead on Green Bay, and like the NFC East, the Bucs have better tie breakers against the current 2nd place team than they do the division leader. The Packers are 6-3 in conference play, while the Bears are 7-3.

On December 26th, the Bears will host the NY Jets, but the Green Bay Packers will travel to NY to play the Giants. Then Green Bay will host the Bears Jan.2nd 2011 in what will probably be a key game in the playoff picture, but before all of that, the Packers will have to travel to Foxboro to play the Patriots!

Donít count the Bucs chances of leaping over New Orleans either; the Saints may have the toughest schedule remaining of all the teams. They play a hot St.Louis Rams team in the Superdome, but then have road games at Baltimore and Atlanta. Once again, week 17 is shaping up to be a huge week for the playoffs, as the Bucs will play in New Orleans.

Key Games- 5 games will cross two of these teams against each other
GreenBay- @Detroit, @NewEngland, Vs NY Giants, vs Chicago
Chicago- Vs New England, @Minnesota, VS NY Jets, @ Green Bay
NY Giants- @ Minnesota, Vs Philadelphia, @ GreenBay, @ Washington
Philadelphia- @ Dallas, @ NY Giants, vs Minnesota, Vs Dallas
New Orleans- Vs St.Louis, @ Baltimore, @ Atlanta, VS Tampa Bay
In short, a lot of the teams the Bucs are battling for a wild card spot have to play each other or some tough common opponents like Minnesota or New England. The Bucs will have to do their part thoughÖand beat the three upcoming teams with losing records, get to ten wins like Raheem Morris predicted would be needed, and hope for things to fall into place in week 17.

If all that happens, the Bucs could find themselves in either the 5th or 6th seed Wild Card spot playing at either the 3rd or 4th seed division winner. By getting the top Wild Card spot, the Bucs could find themselves with a playoff game at the NFC West division champ, perhaps Seattle or St. Louis, in a rematch with those teams much more favorable than playing at New York or Philadelphia.

About the writer
Nick is also the editor of Bucstop.com which is a superb website described as a site where you get lost in time watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers video clips from 1977 to 2010. He was selected to the Bucs UK Hall of Fame in 2009 and has joined myself and Phil Jones on the sideline at Buccaneer games in recent seasons as thanks for the lengths he goes to in supporting the Bucs UK. Nick writes regular daily comments on the Bucs and the NFL on the site and it is well worth adding to your list of Buccaneer bookmarks.