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Why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the Detroit Lions’ new favorite team

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You look hungry, Tampa. Could I offer you some Ws to eat?

NFL: Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, the Detroit Lions are doing what they need to do to give themselves a chance at the postseason. After odds dropped to below 10 percent following their loss to the Ravens, the Lions have won two straight and essentially doubled those odds.

But because of their prior transgressions, they’re still in need of a lot of help. Thankfully, there is one team that can provide them with pretty much all of the help they’ll need.

Unfortunately, that team is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bucs are 4-9 and completely devastated by injuries right now. But their schedule provides a unique opportunity to give Detroit a lot of help when it comes to making the playoffs. Take a look:

Week 15: vs. Falcons (8-5)
Week 16: at Panthers (10-4)
Week 17: vs. Saints (10-4)

The Lions trail all three of those teams in the NFC playoff race, but can theoretically catch any of them before the season is through, despite the fact that the Lions have lost to all three.

Here’s how it works: The Lions can jump either the Saints or the Panthers if one of those teams loses out, and the Seahawks (or Cowboys) and Lions win out. This would basically create a three-way tie between the Saints/Panthers, the Seahawks/Cowboys and the Lions at 10-6.

Both the Saints and the Panthers have not played the Seahawks nor Cowboys this year, and because the three-way tie requires a full sweep of the other two teams for head-to-head matchups to count, the relevant tiebreaker is conference record. The Lions would prevail with a strong 8-4 conference record.

The Falcons have such a strong conference record right now (7-2) that the Lions cannot win a tiebreaker at 10-6. They simply need to finish with a better record than Atlanta to pass them. The Bucs can help with a huge upset on Monday night.

Theoretically speaking, if the Buccaneers win out, the Lions are almost certainly in with two wins. That create the following scenario:

  • Falcons: 8-7
  • Panthers: 10-5
  • Saints: 10-5

But then there are two remaining games left:

  • Falcons vs. Saints
  • Falcons vs. Panthers

Assuming no messy ties, the only way the Lions don’t get in is if the Falcons win both of those games AND neither the Cowboys nor Seahawks finish 10-6. Interestingly enough, the Cowboys and Seahawks face off against each other this week, so whoever wins, the Lions will be rooting for in Week 17 (Dallas vs. Philly; Seahawks vs. Cardinals).

Of course, expecting a 4-9 team to win out is a completely lost cause. It isn’t going to happen. But if Tampa can pull off one upset, it could really help Detroit’s chances. A win on Monday night against the Falcons alone would raise the Lions’ playoff odds by 17 percentage points (21 to 38 percent).

So let’s go Bucs! Eat that W!