NFC Wild Card Matchup:
#5 Buccaneers (11-5) at #4 Washington (7-9)
Saturday, January 9, 5:15 PM PST (NBC)
If you’ve been anywhere near the NFL lately, you know that the Washington Football Team “won” the NFC East with a 7-9 record. The Eagles let them pass by into the playoffs over the rival New York Giants. And, since the Giants are in the biggest media market, we get to hear about everyone wetting their pants over it. Who cares, win more than six games if you want a chance at the playoffs. Anyway, Sir Thomas, who renounced his patriotism for a life of barbary leads the Buccaneers up to the nation’s capital to do battle. How can the Buccaneers pull this one out? Well, by being better than Washington, who isn’t all that great. But how can Washington Football Team and Alex Smith pull this NFC Wild Card match out? Let’s take a look at how these teams compare in this NFC Wild Card matchup.
How the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Win
Important Player: Tom Brady
The main difference between last year’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and this year’s iteration of the squad is the man behind center. Touchdown Tom made his way down to Tampa Bay and guided the team to an 11-5 record after Jameis Winston led them to a 7-9 record in 2019. If Tom Brady can keep the ball safe, then the Buccaneers will win this one in a laugher. Brad has multiple turnovers in four games this year… in four of Tampa Bay’s five losses. The fifth loss was the hilarious Tom Brady senior moment on Thursday Night Football against the Bears. Brady just has to keep doing what he’s been doing, as he’s averaged 333.3 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0.3 interceptions over his last four games.
Important Statistic: Running Back Yards Allowed
The Washington Football Team does not have a strong passing game. They have weapons, with Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas, but the passing game is not strong. They rely on the run, with Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, and Peyton Barber leading the way. Unfortunately for them, they reached a buzz saw in that department. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers led the league in yards per carrying allowed thanks to a strong defensive line and tackling machine linebackers. They were the only team in the NFL to not allow 1,000 yards rushing this season, and only two running backs topped 90 total yards against them. Those backs? Dalvin Cook and Brian Hill, of course.
Important Position Group: Linebackers and Safeties
I mentioned above how the Tampa Bay defense stymies running back productivity, but they need to also shut down the basis of the WFT passing game: short dump-offs to the running backs and tight ends. Over the last eight games of the season, Logan Thomas averaged 8 targets per game. He kept the game going for the WFT over the second half of the season. Over the same timeframe, the running backs averaged 11 targets per game. That’s 19 targets to the running backs and linebackers per game. If WFT ran this strategy all year, they would have passed to RB & TE 304 times… the league leader in RB/TE targets was the L.A. Chargers, with 286 targets to the position. The linebackers and safeties will have a long day and need to play up to their standard to lead Tampa Bay to victory.
How the Washington Football Team Wins
Important Player: Chase Young
More specifically, Chase Young and the rest of the defensive line. This one will truly be a strength-on-strength matchup against the Buccaneers offensive line. Chase Young transformed this defensive line into a powerhouse, and as his leader, he will need to make his presence felt if the Washington Football Team has any chance of moving on in the playoffs. The Buccaneers’ offensive line allows pressure on just 16.7% of snaps, the third-lowest rate in the league. On the flip side, the Washington Football team defense gets QB pressures on 25.6% of snaps, the fourth-highest rate in the league.
Important Statistic: Points Allowed
I know, it sounds incredibly silly to say that the number of points allowed will factor into this game. I get it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out a better way to frame it, but it is what it is. This is to say: The Washington Football Team isn’t going to beat Tom Brady in a shootout. They just won’t. The second-best WR on WFT in a given game is a random Sims, and the second-best WR on WFT is either Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, or Antonio Gibson. Pick your poison there. But, Washington Football Team is extremely ready to shut down the Buccaneers to try to win a 17-14 slobber knocker. They allowed the third-fewest points per drive this season, with 1.69 points per drive. The Buccaneers were slightly less stingy, allowing 1.89 points per drive. If Washington wants a chance to win, they need to make this a defensive battle.
Important Position Group: Secondary
Mike Evans. Chris Godwin. Antonio Brown. Rob Gronkowski. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not at a loss for receiving weapons this season. The Washington Football Team secondary will have its hands full, but the boys are more than up to the task. Only the Rams allowed fewer passing yards this season and fewer net yards per pass attempt. Kendall Fuller and rookie standout Kamren Curl lead the way for this secondary. Given how this game is likely to go, the secondary will be the make-or-break position group for the Washington Football Team making it to the next round in an upset.