Tampa Bay BuccaneersWins by Los Angeles and Minnesota could help the Buccaneers in the long run in their own pursuit of a playoff berth…Suggestions for which teams to root for in each contest as the Bucs enjoy their bye weekScott Smith
Week 10 was a good one for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and not just because they made history by winning the first NFL regular-season game ever played in Germany. While the Buccaneers were somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday, headed to Munich, the Carolina Panthers beat the Atlanta Falcons, 25-15. And after they had finished off the Seattle Seahawks at Allianz Arena, the Pittsburgh Steelers took care of the New Orleans Saints, 20-10.
Those results restored the Buccaneers' uncontested hold on first place in the NFC South with a 5-5 record, as the Falcons fell to 4-6 and the Panthers and Saints both emerged from the weekend at 3-7. Tampa Bay also has a head-to-head win over Atlanta stored behind glass, ready to break if needed. By beating the Seahawks, the Buccaneers also moved a game closer to taking over the third seed in the NFC standings. Here's a look at how the NFC playoff picture shook out after all of the Week 10 action was complete.
Now the Bucs can take a little extra time to savor that win in Germany as they enjoy a well-deserved bye week. Of course, that means they can't help their own cause this weekend. Maybe some of the teams that are in action can do that for them. The Buccaneers may not be playing on Sunday but, let's be real, you're still going to be watching football. Even if you have no stakes in most of the weekend's games (or you do but only because of fantasy football), you can still root for the outcomes that would help the Bucs the most.
Allow me to help with that. Here are my suggestions for which teams to root for in Week 11, with the games presented in chronological order. This is your 2022 Week 11 Viewing Guide.
Tennessee Titans (6-3) at Green Bay Packers (4-6), Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET
We start off with an easy one on Thursday night. The easy and obvious rule of thumb in this exercise overall is to root for the AFC team in an interconference matchup. No reason to stray from that here, and the Packers in particular are a team the Buccaneers do not want to see get back in the NFC playoff race. If the Buccaneers somehow end up in the Wild Card hunt - which would require a serious stretch-drive run by the Falcons - they wouldn't want to be even with the Packers, who beat them in Week Three.
Verdict: Go Tractorcito (insert 16-wheeler horn sound here)! Root for Derrick Henry to run all over the Packers' 26th-ranked run defense.
Chicago Bears (3-7) at Atlanta Falcons (4-6), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Chicago games are starting to become appointment viewing because of the incredible things quarterback Justin Fields has started to do on a weekly basis. Generally I have found the Bears difficult to root for through the years, but they are undeniably fun to watch now, and we have reason to cheer them on this week in particular. There's nothing complicated here, a win by Fields and company would give the Bucs a little extra breathing room in the NFC South standings.
Verdict: It feels strange to say this but...Go Bears? Dang right! Go Bears!
Carolina Panthers (3-7) at Baltimore Ravens (6-3), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
I'm not saying that, as Buccaneers fans, we should be too worried about the Panthers, whose quarterback carousel continues apace, but the fact is that they are only two games back in the division standings and they currently hold a head-to-head tiebreaker edge over our team. Anyway, who's more fun to watch, Baker Mayfield - back in after an injury to P.J. Walker - or Lamar Jackson? The Panthers fired Head Coach Matt Rhule and traded away Christian McCaffrey and Robbie Anderson in a span of 12 days before their game against the Bucs in Week Seven, which seemed to signal the start of a rebuild. Apparently the team hasn't gotten the message winning two of four since, and they probably should be 3-1 in that span but for the craziness at the end of their 37-34 loss to Atlanta three weeks ago. The Bucs play the Panthers again in Week 17 and may be desperate for a win. We wouldn't Carolina to get frisky in the weeks between. A loss here could suck some of the life out of them.
Verdict: Go Ravens!
Cleveland Browns (3-6) at Buffalo Bills (6-3), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Most all-AFC matchups are essentially irrelevant to the Bucs' playoff needs, save for potential impact to the strength of schedule and strength of victory tiebreakers, which are impossible to figure out this far from the end of the season. So you usually have to manufacture some rooting interest for these, and here goes: The Buccaneers play the Browns coming out of their bye and would benefit from a less motivated opponent. You could say that a loss that drops them to 3-7 might make them desperate, knowing they are on the verge of dropping fully out of the race. However, on the other hand a win over one of the AFC's powerhouses could have the Browns feeling their oats, and possibly even just a game out of the last Wild Card spot depending on how some other games go. That Browns team would concern me a little bit more in Week 12.
Verdict: Go Bills - smash through the Browns' playoff hopes like they are tailgate tables.
Washington Commanders (5-5) at Houston Texans (1-7-1), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Washington has sneakily won four of its last five and just this past Monday put an end to Philly's chances at an undefeated season. They are not going to win the NFC East because they would need all three of Philadelphia, Dallas and New York to crater, and intradivision games between them all make that nearly impossible. So the Buccaneers only need to worry about the Commanders if they somehow fall into the Wild Card race. Don't fret about this one too much, but again, it's an interconference game so our hearts should be in Houston.
Verdict: Go Texans! (And if it's not too much trouble could you give the ball to Dameon Pierce a lot for the sake of my fantasy team?)
Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) at Indianapolis Colts (4-5-1), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
The Jeff Saturday Experience is going to get a much stiffer challenge in its second week when the Eagles come to town. The Bucs are trailing the Eagles and Vikings by 3.5 games in the conference standings, so their odds of grabbing the top seed and its opening-week bye are essentially negligible. Still we can root for both of them to collapse, and if one of them does the Bucs could possibly get close to the number two seed, which would guarantee a home game in the Divisional Round, if they get that far. And not to sound like a broken record, but we once again have an AFC opponent on the other side.
Verdict: You know what they say: "any given Saturday." Go Colts!
New York Jets (6-3) at New England (5-4), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Doesn't really matter to the Bucs, but let's have a heart here. Do you know how often the Jets have beaten the Patriots last decade? Twice. Led by a fabulous defense, the Jets are a real contender this year and have won five of their last six. The one loss in that span? Yep, to the Patriots two weeks ago. The Jets followed that up by beating the Bills! For the sake of their psyches, the Jets need this one, and since it won't impact the Bucs' situation, I'm going to root for them to get it. Won't you join me?
Verdict: J E T S! Jets, Jets...just beat the Patriots already.
Los Angeles Rams (3-6) at New Orleans Saints (3-7), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
The Buccaneers have two reasons to root for the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year. First, the Saints are on the other side, and I won't stop worrying about a zombie-like rise from them until they are fully eliminated. And less importantly but still true, every win by the Rams increases the Bucs' strength of victory tiebreaker number. I suppose it's also possible that the Rams get back in the Wild Card race, and if the Bucs end up in that mix too they'd like to be even with a team they have already beaten. And I just 99 words to tell you that you should root against the Saints, didn't I? Seems completely unnecessary. Rooting against the Saints should be your standard operating procedure as a Bucs fan.
Verdict: The Buccaneers gave Sean McVay his first NFL job. He owes us. Go Rams!
Detroit (3-6) at New York Giants (7-2), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
The Eagles, Cowboys and Giants are all probably going to make the playoffs - FiveThirtyEight.com gives all three at least a 76% chance of qualifying - but only one of them can win the division. That would make the other two Wild Card teams, and if the Buccaneers do hold on to the NFC South that makes it a good bet one of them will be coming to Tampa in the Wild Card round. Since the Bucs' most likely finish is either the three or four seed, they can expect to play either the first or second of the three Wild Card teams. Who would you prefer that to be. Of all the options that look reasonable, I think I'd go with the Giants, who despite their very good record are 12th out of 16 NFC teams in offense and 10th in defense. Therefore, we should be rooting for the Giants to continue finding improbable success. It seems counterintuitive to pull for the team that is actually in the NFC playoff race, but I think it makes sense here. Hate to do that to Dan Campbell, though.
Verdict: Go G-Men!
Las Vegas Raider (2-7) at Denver Broncos (3-6), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
I've got nothing for you here. Who would you most like to see lose, Russell Wilson or Josh McDaniels? Go with that as your guide.
Verdict: Go...to a different channel.
Dallas Cowboys (6-3) at Minnesota Vikings (8-1), Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
The Buccaneers have already beaten Dallas this season, and handily so, and thus shouldn't be afraid of a Wild Card weekend visit from the Cowboys. But the two teams veered in opposite directions after that Week One meeting and the Cowboys might look a totally different team by January. We've already established that we're rooting for the Giants to be the team that gets the top Wild Card spot, so let's knock Dallas down a peg here. I'm not thrilled about the Vikings getting a ninth win, but their remaining schedule isn't very challenging so they're not likely to fade enough for it to matter to the Bucs anyway.
Cincinnati Bengals (5-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6), Sunday, 4:25 pm. ET
The Bucs play the Bengals in Week 15 and we don't want Cincinnati coming to town in full-on must-win mode. They're currently on the outside of the AFC playoff picture by one game, but they're also only one game behind Baltimore for the AFC North lead. Let's get them moving in the right direction so they're not feeling too desperate a month from now.
Verdict: Go Bengals!
Kansas City Chiefs (7-2) at Los Angeles Chargers (5-4), Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET
It doesn't matter to the Bucs but this could be a fun one if Justin Herbert has anyone to throw the ball to. Hopefully the Chargers get some of their pass-catchers back from injuries and this one turns into a fun-as-hell shootout. That's the only thing I'll be rooting for!
Verdict: Go off, Mahomes and Herbert!
San Francisco 49ers (5-4) at Arizona Cardinals (4-6), Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Either Seattle or San Francisco is going to win the NFC West. We'd prefer it to be Seattle, so that if the Bucs and Seahawks are both division winners with identical records, the Bucs would get the higher seed by tiebreaker. Of course, Tampa Bay could grab the same advantage over the 49ers in San Francisco in Week 14, but that's not a guarantee. I'd like both teams to lose here because it's always good to push any team you can out of the Wild Card picture, but right now a 49ers loss is more important.
Verdict: Go Niners!