As the Buccaneers come out of their bye week following a crushing loss to the division rival New Orleans Saints they prepare for a rematch of the 2020 NFC Wild Card round against the Washington Football Team. Although, things aren’t going so well for Washington through the first half of the season.
Washington has started off 2-6 after winning the NFC East last season. Granted, they won it with a losing record, but they aren’t anywhere close to contending for another division crown this season. After signing free agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the offseason, Fitz was lost in the season opener to a hip injury, opening the door for Taylor Heinicke to become the starter.
On top of that, after sporting a top five defense in 2020, the Washington Football Team is in the bottom five in points allowed per game (28.4), only ahead of the Houston Texans, Detroit Lions, and New York Jets. They are eleventh in rush defense, allowing 102.6 yards per game and dead last in the NFL in passing defense, allowing 286.9 yards per game. The vaunted Washington pass rush has 19 sacks on the season - which is two more than the Buccaneers through eight games.
Now, you can point to the play of the quarterback as part of the reason Washington has floundered this season. One of the biggest hits has been taken by star wide receiver Terry McLaurin. McLaurin, coming off a 2020 campaign where he had 1,118 yards on 87 receptions and four touchdowns. McLaurin also had seventeen plays of 20+ yards. This year, McLaurin has three games over 100 yards receiving but the remaining five games have all been under 70 yards - including three under 50 yards.
Something else to keep an eye on - especially for a reeling defense - is that Washington’s best pass rusher, Montez Sweat, is not likely to play. In their Wild Card matchup, Chase Young couldn’t find his way to Tom Brady - despite calling Brady out the week before - and you would think that it would be more of the same this time around. Young has not looked strong this season and going up against Tristan Wirfs isn’t exactly the matchup that would get him out of his funk.
For the Buccaneers, it’s all about playing their game. Even without Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski, the Buccaneers should have more than enough on the offensive side of the ball to continue to expose a bad Washington defense. There are questions surrounding the status of Chris Godwin which changes a little of what the Bucs can do, but not enough to strike fear or worry into the hearts of Bucs fans. Tyler Johnson has shown he can step up and make an impact when called upon and the tight end duo of O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate can still be relied upon to move the sticks as well as in the red zone, and DraftKings Sportsbook is favoring the Bucs in this one.
Tom Brady is coming off one of his worst games as a member of the Bucs in terms of turning the ball over and he shouldn’t have a problem getting back on track this week. On pace for over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, Brady will look to Mike Evans - another player on pace for some milestones and personal bests - early and often against an outmatched Washington secondary. Beyond that, Leonard Fournette should be able to find success in the run game against a team that gives up over 100 yards to opposing backs on average.
The Bucs’ run defense is now second in the NFL behind the Saints, allowing 78.0 yards per game to opposing teams. Antonio Gibson is currently 21st in the NFL with just 442 rushing yards on the season - one spot and three yards ahead of Leonard Fournette - but Gibson was hampered with some injuries throughout the year causing him to share time with J.D. McKissic.
The all-time record between the two teams is locked up at 12-12, with the two teams splitting the last six matchups at three apiece. Most recently, we remember the Buccaneers win in the playoffs. The meeting before that was one Buccaneers fans would rather soon forget as Washington emerged with a 16-3 win in 2018 despite the Bucs racking up over 500 yards of offense. The game before that? Well, that took place in 2015 and became the infamous “You like that?!” game as the Bucs blew a 24 point lead en route to a 31-30 loss.
As for Tom Brady, he sports a career record of 5-1 all time when facing Washington (including the playoffs) with 1,559 yards, thirteen touchdowns, and six interceptions in the five regular season matchups. The lone loss came back in 2003, with Brady’s Patriots winning four in a row after that.
The Bucs are heavy favorites in this one according to the DraftKings Sportsbook, being favored by 9.5 and with the over/under sitting at 51.5. Washington has lost their last eight games when coming in as an underdog and having not covered the spread in seven of their last eight games. For the Bucs, in their last five games when coming off a loss they have failed to hit the over.
The Buccaneers are currently looking up at the Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers in the NFC playoff seeding while the Washington Football Team looks to get things back on track and battle into the Wild Card picture in the second half of the season. Both will look to make that first step in the right direction this Sunday at FedEx Field at 1:00 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on FOX with Adam Amin and Mark Schlereth on the call.