Imagine if the 2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Were an AFC Team
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the wrong conference. After a four-win campaign last season the Bucs are 3-4 this year and have not lost a game by more than a touchdown. Their next three contests feature road matchups against Oakland and Carolina, and a home clash with San Diego. If Greg Schiano's team can go 2-1 in those three games they would be right in the playoff hunt, in the AFC.
While it is likely some two-team combination of Miami, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis will make the playoffs in the AFC, the NFC poses a much greater challenge. With all due credit to Joe Philbin and some combination of Chuck Pagano and Bruce Arians, the current five and six seeds in the AFC -- the Dolphins and Colts -- are not Super Bowl contenders.
At 3-4, if Tampa Bay were in the AFC they would be one game behind Indianapolis for the final playoff spot. In the NFC, the Bucs sit one-and-a-half games back of Green Bay. Yes, the Packers, the pre-season favorite to win the Super Bowl.
In the AFC the Buccaneers would be tied with San Diego, Oakland, Buffalo, and Cincinnati. As it stands, Tampa is knotted with Detroit, Philadelphia, and Dallas. An all-star team of the first group features Phillip Rivers who hasn't looked right since 2010, Darren McFadden who is averaging 3.3 yards per carry, and AJ Green. The second group is the first round of your fantasy draft: Matt Stafford, LeSean McCoy, and Calvin Johnson.
Only three of Tampa's final nine games come against teams that currently hold winning records. A 9-7 record will take some doing and perhaps some luck but it is possible. It is likely 9-7 will be good enough to taste the postseason in the AFC. Much like the last three seasons, it is going to take 10 wins to get a wildcard in the NFC.