The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got their fourth straight win in dramatic fashion on Sunday, beating AFC contenders Buffalo Bills 33-27 in overtime. The win gives the Bucs a 10-3 record, putting them in great position to come away with the NFC first seed and a round 1 bye with four games left to play.
Late Monday night saw the Los Angeles Rams stay alive in the race by beating division rival Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, meaning the Cards are no longer the top NFC team. Currently the Green Bay Packers hold the no. 1 seed, but with three teams at 10-3 and two chasers at 9-4 we can look forward to an exciting battle for the top spot.
The reigning world champions Buccaneers is the conference favourite at odds sites like Unibet, especially considering they might just have the easiest remaining schedule for the teams preparing for one last push in the playoff race.
The hardest game left for the Buccaneers will take place this coming week, when NFC South rivals New Orleans Saints travel to Tampa Bay. At 6-7 the Saints are still in the hunt for a wildcard ticket, and with star running back Alvin Kamara back from injury they will no doubt be a team to be wary of. They did also come away with the W the last times these two teams met, with a 36-27 win back in October. Getting revenge in this matchup can prove to be the key to getting the no. 1 seed for the Bucs.
The season then concludes with two meetings with the Carolina Panthers, plus a road trip to the struggling Jets. The Panthers have struggled offensively with top player Christian McCaffrey on IR and inconsistent play from QB Cam Newton. Anything other than three Bucs wins from these games would be a big surprise.
There is a strong feeling that the Bucs will take care of business the rest of the way, going 4-0 and finishing the regular season with 8 straight wins. The only question is if that will be enough to end up with the no. 1 seed in a super-competitive NFC.
The Packers now find themselves as the front-runner in the NFC, and they showed no signs of slowing down with a 45-30 thumping of the Chicago Bears on Sunday night. They have gone a perfect 6-0 so far when playing at home on Lambeau Field, and the frozen tundra looks to be the place where the NFC champion will be decided this season.
The toughest game left comes this Sunday, when the green and gold travel to Baltimore to take on a Ravens team reeling from injuries to key players. The biggest injury concern going into the game is undoubtedly the one to QB Lamar Jackson, who had to exit the last game against Cleveland with an ankle sprain.
The Browns and Vikings will both look to ruin the Packers’ perfect home record, but with Aaron Rodgers hitting MVP form it will take top performances from Baker Mayfield and Kirk Cousins to keep up. Green Bay end the regular season with a visit to NFC bottom dwellers Detroit Lions, who surely are too depleted at this stage to cause an enormous upset.
The Packers decide their own destiny, with four wins guaranteeing them the no. 1 seed. The schedule looks promising, but can there be a late twist in the tale?
The Cardinals had been the NFC front-runner for most of the season, but the 30-23 loss on Monday Night Football to the LA Rams can prove very costly. They now find themselves as the no. 3 seed, and they have the toughest schedule going into the last four weeks.
It starts easy enough with a trip to Detroit, but after that they face two opponents who are pushing to improve their own playoff seedings. The Indianapolis Colts are hitting their stride with four wins in their last five, carried by the MVP-level performances of RB Jonathan Taylor who has scored 11 touchdowns in that span.
A trip to Dallas in early January looms large, where both the Cards and the ‘Boys might still be in with a strong shout to finish as the top NFC team. Rounding off with a visit from spoiler-happy Seahawks can also prove to be a tricky task to navigate.
Can the Cardinals hit back after the Monday night loss? They are still in a good position, but the remaining schedule can see at least one loss lurking. One loss can be all that it takes to crush the dreams of the top seed in the desert, especially considering the easier games that await their main competitors.