New Playoff Rule Could Have Helped Bucs in Past Seasons
The NFL is considering a new format to the playoffs under the upcoming CBA that would increase the number of playoff teams to seven and give just the conferences' top team a bye, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. This change comes a little too late for a few Buccaneers teams that could have benefited from just a little more leeway at season's end.
The 2016 Bucs finished with a 9-7 record and were the last team out of the playoffs, but with this particular rule, the Tampa Bay would have faced the eventual NFC champions, the Atlanta Falcons. Perhaps, in this alternate universe, the Bucs upset the Falcons, as they had in the first game of the season, and the Falcons don't go on to suffer the worst collapse in Super Bowl history.
Another Bucs team that makes it in is the 2008 squad, which would certainly complicated what unfolded the subsequent offseason (via the Athletic's Greg Auman):
Indeed, would Gruden have stuck around a little longer if he got the Bucs back into the playoffs, or was the team too far gone at that point?
What would have that 2009 squad even looked like? Raheem Morris would have been defensive coordinator rather than head coach. Perhaps Josh Freeman falls to the Dolphins in the second round. Would stats still be for losers?
One Tampa Bay squad that still would not have gotten in was the 2010 team, which holds the franchise's best record of the 2010s. The Giants would get in over the Bucs thanks to a better win percentage in common games. That blown touchdown call against Kellen Winslow would still sink their season.