This is the moment that has been 13 years in the making for Buccaneer fans. The road back to the Super Bowl starts tonight in Washington.
The Bucs are 6-9 all-time in the playoffs and will be playing in their first playoff game since 2008. The Bucs will also be looking for their first playoff win since the Super Bowl season of 2002.
Washington won the NFC East with a 7-9 record, a record that would have been much better had they not started Dwayne Haskins the first part of the season.
The Bucs finished 11-5 and second in the NFC South behind New Orleans.
The Buccaneers will be short-handed on the defensive side as linebacker Devin White is still on the reserve/COVID-19 list and will not play. Shaquill Barrett is off the COVID-19 list and will play against Washington.
Defensive back Carlton Davis will be a game-time decision as he recovers from a groin injury.
Offensively, wide receiver Mike Evans will also be a game time decision. Evans hyperextended his knee against Atlanta and has been limited at practice this week.
For Washington there is some concern that quarterback Alex Smith may not be able to play in the game. Taylor Heinicke may get the start as Smith continues to recover from a calf injury. Heinicke has one NFL start in his career.
Smith was limited in practice today and had trouble moving when he did practice. If Smith cannot play at all, that would change the dynamics of this game.
Smith has played well since returning to the field in October, and that was not lost on coach Bruce Arians as he talked about Alex Smith “We don’t see them as a 7-9 team. We see them as a 4-1 team because every time Alex Smith has played, they went 4-1. It’s a different team when Alex is playing, and we know that. We’re playing that 4-1 team, not that 7-9 team.”
Although the Washington Football Team has been near the bottom of the NFL in offensive production this season, the defense has been outstanding. Washington is giving up 317 yards and has one of the best defensive lines in football.
Chase Young and Montez Sweat will be key players on this defensive line for years to come. Young, who will win Defensive Rookie of the Year, has 7.5 sacks on the season and has disrupted opposing offenses all year.
Sweat, in his second season out of Mississippi State led the Washington Football Team with 9.5 sacks. Sweat also had 12 tackles for losses and 20 quarterback hits.
Bucs rookie tackle Tristan Wirfs will go up against defensive end Montez Sweat. Those two have met before in the 2018 Outback Bowl in Tampa, and Wirfs remembers that game quite well.
“I remember him having really long arms and being really fast. That was a fun game, getting to go against him, because I remember it being my sophomore season, getting to go against a premier edge rusher like that.”
Chase Young, after the game against Philadelphia said, “I want Tom Brady.” Be careful what you wish for young man. The GOAT plays his best football when challenged.
Brady took the high road when asked about the comment this week. “He’s obviously a great young player, so we’ve got our hands full with that d-line. It’s one of the best d-lines in the league. Chase is a great young player. We’re prepared for a tough challenge, and it should be a fun game.”
When given a chance to clarify his comments, Young did not back down, “I play ball. I’m excited to go against the best. I’m excited for every game. And Tom Brady, you think I’m not gonna be excited to play against the GOAT? Then you trippin’. And that is what it is. I’m excited to play against Big Tom. I’m not gonna apologize for saying I want Tom. No, I want Tom Brady. I want every quarterback I play against.”
This will be Tom Brady’s 108th career playoff game and his ninth playoff game on the road. Brady has not been great on the road going 4-4. In those eight games, Brady has thrown nine touchdown passes and ten interceptions.
If the Bucs have any chance to reach the Super Bowl, the Bucs will need much better from Brady as the Bucs will most likely play all their playoff games on the road.
This game will be won or lost in the trenches. If the Bucs offensive line can keep the Washington defensive line off Brady, the Bucs will easily win this game.
If Washington can get pressure on Brady and disrupt his rhythm, this will be a close game.
I have questions about the Bucs defense. They are outstanding against the run, leading the league in giving up 80 yards a game.
It’s the pass defense that has been their Achilles heel and caused problems throughout the season.
This game will be closer than the 8.5 points the Bucs are giving. The Bucs will win this game, but it won’t be easy—final score Bucs 21-Washington 18.
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