Week 18 decides Bucs Wild Card opponent
With them dramatic 30-24 victory over the Panthers on New Year’s Day, the Bucs won the NFC South and its accompanying home game in the first round.
Heading into the final week of the regular season, they are now 8-8. That is a figure well below the other division winners/leaders in the NFC. As a result, Tampa Bay is locked in as the number 4 seed. So Todd Bowles’ team will host the number 5 seed at Raymond James Stadium in two weeks time during Wild Card Weekend.
Who will be the number 5 seed then? That is determined by the results of week 18.
It comes down to two teams: the Eagles or Cowboys. Those two will battle for the NFC East crown next week, with the winner getting a playoff home game and the loser going to Tampa.
The 13-3 Eagles are in the driver’s seat heading into the final weekend of the regular season. They will host the 9-6-1 Giants, who are on their way to the playoffs themselves. Philadelphia can take the NFC East with a win over New York or a loss in Dallas. In the event the Eagles win the East, the Cowboys will be the No. 5 seed and face the No. 4 seed Bucs.
The 12-4 Cowboys travel to the 7-8-1 Commanders in Week 18. They need a win and a loss to the Eagles to clinch the division. Of course, if that happens, Philadelphia will go to Tampa as the number 5 seed.
Bucs familiar with cowboys, eagles
No matter who ends up hosting the Bucs at Wild Card Weekend, there will be no lack of familiarity between the two sides. The Bucs and Cowboys faced each other in Week 1, with Tampa Bay winning 19-3 in Dallas. Those two teams also met to open the 2021 season, with the Bucs beating the Cowboys 31-29 at home.
If the Eagles finish as No. 5, it will be the third meeting between them and the Bucs in the past two seasons. Tampa Bay won in Philadelphia in October 2021, 28-22, before the two teams met again in Tampa at Wild Card Weekend last year. That game was not close, with the Bucs winning 31-15 to advance to the NFC Divisional Round.
Despite the success the Bucs have had against both teams over the past two seasons, they should put in a lot of work in both games.
Dallas is much improved from Week 1. Mike McCarthy’s team won six of its next seven games after starting the season with a loss to Tampa Bay. After losing to Green Bay to end that run, the Cowboys have again won six of their last seven games to reach 12-4.
The Eagles have been one of the better teams in the NFL all season. They started 8-0 and reached 13-1 before dropping their final two games – one to Dallas and one to New Orleans – with star quarterback Jalen Hurts sidelined. Hurts should be Philadelphia’s finalist, but at least he would definitely be ready for the first round of the playoffs.
So while the Bucs’ playoff positioning won’t be impacted in Week 18, they’ll definitely be watching some scoreboard.
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