Last week: 11 (+8)
The Buccaneers are surging thanks to Doug Martin’s improved play and the improved chemistry between Josh Freeman and new free agent acquisition Vincent Jackson. They’ve won 3 of 4 and sit at 4-4 with a +41 points differential that ranks 6th in the loaded NFC (for reference, it’d be 4th in the AFC). They rank 12th in yards per play differential and 14th in rate of sustaining drives differential. If history is any indication, they’re more likely to make it than some other borderline playoff teams in the NFC right now. Every year, 5 new playoff teams make the playoffs that didn’t make it the year before, dating back 17 straight years. I use this in my Power Rankings every week.
Right now, Chicago, who didn’t make the playoffs last year, looks like a lock to make it this year. Meanwhile, Cincinnati and New Orleans, two playoff teams from a year ago, look very unlikely to make it this year. Indianapolis, sitting at 5-3, is another solid bet to make the playoffs after missing it last year. Detroit, at 4-4, probably has to go 6-2 the rest of the way to make the playoffs, against a brutal schedule, so they’re probably out. Other than that, not much is set in stone.
Miami, San Diego, Minnesota, Seattle, and Tampa Bay are the serious candidates for the other 3 spots in the 5 in category, while, in my opinion, Green Bay and Baltimore, thanks to injury, seem to be in the strongest (weakest?) position to be the other 2 out. Philadelphia and Dallas were candidates to be in the 5 in group before losses last week and that pretty much locked the Giants, another 5 out candidate, into a playoff spot.
Pittsburgh is another 5 out candidate, but I think they’re a better team than Baltimore right now and will sweep the two games against them, but we’ll know more in the next few weeks. With New Orleans, Detroit, and Green Bay out, that opens two more spots in the AFC, with Chicago already pretty safely locked into taking New Orleans’s vacated spot. I think Tampa Bay and Seattle have the edge over Detroit and Minnesota because those two teams have brutal schedules going forward. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has some easier games against New Orleans, Carolina, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and San Diego, with only a trip to Denver and two games against Atlanta as games against likely playoff teams.
RB Doug Martin: Rushed for 251 yards (171 after contact) and 4 touchdowns on 25 carries, 12 broken tackles, allowed 1 quarterback hurry on 3 pass block snaps, caught 4 passes for 21 yards on 5 attempts
RG Jamon Meredith: Allowed 1 quarterback hurry on 35 pass block snaps, run blocked for 19 yards on 3 attempts
LG Jeremy Zuttah: Allowed 1 quarterback hit on 35 pass block snaps, run blocked for 44 yards and a touchdown on 2 attempts
C Ted Larsen: Didn’t allow a pressure on 35 pass block snaps, 1 penalty, run blocked for 70 yards and a touchdown on 1 attempt
QB Josh Freeman: 18 of 30 for 247 yards and 2 touchdowns, 3 throw aways, 1 drop, 99.9 adjusted QB rating, pressured on 14 of 34 drop backs (1 sack, 5 of 13, 3 throw aways)
CB Leonard Johnson: 5 solo tackles, 1 quarterback hurry on 1 blitz, allowed 6 catches for 72 yards on 13 attempts, 1 interception, 1 pass deflection, 1 penalty
FS Ronde Barber: Allowed 3 catches for 19 yards on 4 attempts, 2 pass deflections, 5 solo tackles, 5 stops, 1 missed tackle, 1 penalty, 1 quarterback hurry on 7 blitzes
LE Michael Bennett: 1 sack, 1 quarterback hit, and 5 quarterback hurries on 52 pass rush snaps, 1 penalty, 1 stop
ROLB Quincy Black: Allowed 6 catches for 74 yards on 6 attempts, 1 penalty, 5 solo tackles, 1 stop, 2 missed tackles
DT Gerald McCoy: 1 quarterback hurry on 58 pass rush snaps, 1 assist, 2 penalties
RE Daniel Te’o Nesheim: 2 quarterback hurries on 55 pass rush snaps, 2 solo tackles, 1 stop