Sun, 24 Jan 2021

Tampa Bay Buccaneers While the Buccaneers enjoy their bye week, you can watch the rest of the action in Week 13 and root for certain teams to win or lose to help Tampa Bay's playoff cause Scott Smith

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the week off but the playoff race in the NFC isn't on hold. The Buccaneers will hold tight with their 7-5 record in Week 13 but virtually every team in the conference with a chance to affect Tampa Bay's standing in the postseason chase will be in action. There's a lot to root for - or against - even without the Bucs playing a game.

After their bye week, the Buccaneers will return to action for a four-game run to the end of the regular season, beginning with a Week 14 matchup with the suddenly-relevant Minnesota Vikings. Tampa Bay also plays Atlanta on the road in Week 15 and at home in Week 17, with a trip to Detroit in between. Whatever happens during the Bucs' bye, they won't start that run in any worse position than the seventh seed, but they could see their chances improve over the weekend.

So which teams should you put your support behind in Week 13 if you want things to be as positive as possible for the Buccaneers' stretch run? We've got some suggestions. (Spoiler alert: You need to start keeping an eye on the Vikings.) This is your Week 13 Viewing Guide.

New Orleans Saints (9-2) at Atlanta Falcons (4-7), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

We jump right into this with perhaps the hardest game to call. First, let's be realistic: The Buccaneers have a far better chance of making the playoffs as a Wild Card team than as the winner of the NFC South. Even if the Saints lose to the Falcons in this contest, they will have a two-game lead over the Buccaneers and the head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to a season sweep, with four games left to play. Hypothetically, if the Buccaneers won all four of their remaining games, they would need the Saints to also lose three of their last four, which seems unlikely. And if the Saints win in Week 13, the race is essentially over.

Meanwhile, the Falcons have won four of their last six and are coming off a 43-6 thumping of a Las Vegas team that is in the AFC playoff hunt. Two of the Bucs' last four games are against Atlanta. Do we want those games to come against a Falcons team strong enough to stop the Saints' eight-game winning streak and reeking with confidence after its recent run? Theoretically, the Falcons could even get back into the playoff hunt by running the table, but if that happens the Buccaneers will have bigger problems.

Verdict: We're not asking you to actively root for the Saints, but if they do take care of business against the Falcons, that's not really such a bad thing.

Detroit Lions (4-7) at Chicago Bears (5-6), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

Here's the overall idea for your rooting interest in Week 13: You want all of the teams close behind the Buccaneers to lose. With the division title a serious longshot, the most important thing is maintaining a hold on one of the Wild Card spots. And no matter which Wild Card seed the Bucs get, they'll be on the road in Week One of the playoffs. At Green Bay? At New Orleans? At Seattle? Pick your poison. The top Wild Card team will be headed to the home of the NFC East winner, so it's advantageous for the Bucs to leap-frog (as it stands now) the L.A. Rams, but the most important thing is to get into the dance first. So this is an easy one. The Bears are on a five-game slide and you want it to get to six. Chicago has a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Buccaneers, so of all the teams that are 5-6 or 4-7, they're the ones you don't want to see matching records with your squad. The Lions are coming off a bad showing on Thanksgiving, which was followed by the firing of Head Coach Matt Patricia, so maybe they'll get that interim head coach bounce that some teams, like this year's Texans and Falcons, seem to get.

Verdict: Go Lions! Get interim Head Coach Darrell Bevell his first win!

Indianapolis Colts (7-4) at Houston Texans (4-7), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

Cincinnati Bengals (2-8-1) at Miami Dolphins (7-4), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

Oakland Raiders (6-5) at New York Jets (0-11), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

Cleveland Browns (8-3) at Tennessee Titans (8-3), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

There's a bunch of early AFC-vs.-AFC action in the early afternoon, and a couple of these games are really good. Okay, one of them is. How real is Cleveland's 8-3 record? It will get seriously challenged this week against Derrick Henry and the Titans. None of this matters much to the Buccaneers, beyond potential strength of schedule and strength of victory tiebreakers, which rarely come into play. The Bucs' only game against any of these teams was a Week Seven win over Las Vegas, so root for the Raiders to rebound from their Atlanta fiasco. Otherwise, not much to see here.

Verdict: Go Raiders...and maybe Dolphins for Florida state pride?

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10) at Minnesota Vikings (5-6), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

This is the most important game on the Week 13 schedule in regards to the Buccaneers' playoff chase. Unfortunately, the Vikings are likely to be prohibitive favorites against a Jags team that has lost 10 in a row, is on its third quarterback (former Buc Mike Glennon!) and has just fired its general manager. With a win, Minnesota would improve to 6-6 and would come to Tampa in Week 14 just a game behind the Buccaneers in the conference standings. That would make the Bucs-Vikings game something like a winner-take-all in terms of their head-to-head race for the postseason. A little cushion over the Vikings would be nice. The Jaguars haven't been completely uncompetitive. In the last four weeks they've lost to the Texans by two, the Packers by four and the Browns by two. There's reason for hope, and there's every reason to root for yet another Florida team.

Verdict: Go, Mike Glennon! Do it for your old pals!

Los Angeles Rams (7-4) at Arizona Cardinals (6-5), Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET

Again, the easy answer is to root for all the teams that are clumped right behind Tampa Bay. The most dangerous ones are the Cardinals, Vikings, 49ers and Bears. On the other hand, the Rams are above the Buccaneers in the Wild Card standings and have a head-to-head win over Tampa Bay to boot. If you think it's important enough to get that top Wild Card spot and face the NFC East winner, then it might be best to root for the Cardinals to bring the Rams down a notch. Furthermore, after this game the Rams still have some tough matchups left with the Seahawks, Cardinals and maybe the up-and-down Patriots. Arizona has lost three of its last four and has gone from NFC West leaders to the fringe of the NFC playoff field.

Verdict: Go off, Goff! (As in Rams QB Jared.) You can disagree and want a Rams loss to help in the Wild Card standings, but we're sticking with our "getting in first is most important" strategy. Let's get some distance from the Cardinals and then work on getting the Rams some losses in the last four weeks.

New York Giants (4-7) at Seattle Seahawks (8-3), Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET

There's really no reason to root against any of the NFC East teams, since the division is only going to produce one playoff team. And the Bucs have a head-to-head win over the Giants so there's some strength of victory consideration here. But we can also look at the bigger picture in the NFC West. In the last three weeks, first place in that ultra-competitive division has been handed over from the Cardinals to the Rams to the Seahawks. Who do the Bucs want to win that division? Probably the Rams, which would take Los Angeles and its head-to-head tiebreaker over Tampa Bay out of the Wild Card picture. The Seahawks have a very easy schedule on paper to finish the season so they have a very good shot at holding onto the division lead. Still, we can hope, beginning with asking the Giants to give Seattle as strong of a run as they gave Tampa Bay in Week Eight.

Verdict: Go Giants!

Philadelphia Eagles (3-7-1) at Green Bay Packers (8-3), Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

The Packers are three games up on the Vikings and Bears in the NFC North and thus are almost certain to take the division title. They also have four of five remaining games against teams with losing records and don't have to play the frisky Vikings, with whom they've already swept. But if we're playing the "you-never-know" game, the Bucs would welcome the Packers into the Wild Card race after beating them in Week Six, 38-10. That would also mean no possible trip to Lambeau Field in Week One. Again, there's no reason for the Bucs to root against any NFC East team, so pull for the Eagles in this one.

Verdict: Go Eagles! There's a theme developing here.

New England Patriots (5-6) at Los Angeles Chargers (3-8), Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

Denver Broncos (4-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-1), Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET

Two more all-AFC matchups later in the afternoon and evening. The Bucs have beaten the Chargers and Broncos, so there would be some small gains in those two teams winning. At least Denver should have a quarterback or two available this week.

Verdict: Go Bolts and Broncs!

Washington Football Team (4-7) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0)*, Monday, 5:00 p.m. ET

I know we said there's no reason to root against the NFC East teams, but in this case that is trumped by the other rule of almost always rooting for an AFC team to beat an NFC opponent. Pittsburgh might still be undefeated when this game happens, so if you like the idea of a team going 16-0 feel free to root for the Steelers.

Verdict: The '72 Dolphins will disagree, but go Steelers!

Buffalo Bills (8-3) at San Francisco 49ers (5-6), Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET

Already this season, Josh Allen and the Bills have dispatched of the Rams and the Seahawks (though not the Cardinals thanks to the "Hail Murray" miracle). Is it too much to ask that they do the same with the 49ers and keep them from getting on a roll after their Week 12 win over the Rams? The 49ers aren't as big of a threat to the Bucs as the Vikings, and they do also still have to play Arizona and Seattle again, but a win here would put them right on the Bucs' heels. The less crowded the fringe of the conference race, the better.

Dallas Cowboys (3-8) at Baltimore Ravens (6-4), Tuesday, 8:05 p.m. ET

This game got moved to Tuesday to give it some distance from the Ravens' Wednesday game against Pittsburgh in Week 12. So enjoy an extra night of football but don't spend too much time worrying about it. The Cowboys are of no consequence to the Bucs' playoff hopes...but they are the Cowboys, so you know what to do.

Verdict: Go Ravens! And go football on EVERY night.

(* This story was posted before the rescheduled Ravens-Steelers game on Wednesday night, which is reflected in their 2020 records.)

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