TAMPA (WFLA) – As the Buccaneers regular season comes to a close. The NFC South champions are not looking past their week 18 opponent the Carolina Panthers as they look to lock up the NFC’s No. 2 playoff spot.
The defending Super Bowl champions are not planning to rest healthy starters for the team’s regular-season finale against their NFC South rival who have lost six straight and 11 of their past 13 games overall.
Depending on what happens on Sunday, the Buccaneers will host a playoff game as either the second, third or fourth seed, and they’ll face either the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles or Arizona Cardinals in Round One.
What to watch
The game many Buccaneers fans will want to keep an eye on is between the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams.
A Rams loss would clinch the Buccaneers the No. 2 seed in the NFC, however, a 49ers win would also clinch the elimination of the New Orleans Saints, a team that the Buccaneers have lost to twice this season.
In that scenario, it would be the Philadelphia Eagles coming to Raymond James in the two/seven matchup while the Rams would host the 49ers for the second consecutive week. Unless the Cowboys beat the Eagles on Saturday in which case the Cowboys move up to three to face San Francisco and the Rams drop to fourth and face the Arizona Cardinals.
Speaking of the Arizona Cardinals, if they were to defeat the Seattle Seahawks in addition to the Cowboys, 49ers, and Bucs winning, the Cardinals move to three and win the NFC West, the Cowboys drop to four, and the Rams become the five.
For those a bit confused don’t worry the only thing that matters for the Bucs this weekend is to beat the Panthers. As the rest remains out of their control, but Bucs fans might want to adopt the 49ers as their second favorite team for a day so the Buccaneers can lock up the two seed.
For Sunday’s game against the Panthers, the Bucs will be without starting RBs Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette as well as key members of the defense including Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul.
As bad as that all sounds, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians provided some hope after practice for the Bucs’ postseason.
“Hopefully, we’ll have almost everybody back defensively next week, so we’ll wait and see how that goes. Let’s win this week and set a franchise record for a number of wins because it’s a big goal, man. Thirteen wins is huge.”