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Chicago Bears v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Bucs X-Factor: Mike Evans must rekindle true No. 1 magic

With multiple injuries to comrades, Evans should show why he’s been a top receiver his entire career.

The Buccaneers benefited from excellent injury luck in 2020, which played a significant role in their championship run, but they cannot say such this season.

From the get-go, the Bucs have dealt with prominent injuries all throughout the roster. Their depth has been tested, and it’s held up well as the team sits at 6-2 (the No. 3 seed in the NFC) coming out of their bye.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear they’ve gotten as healthy as they would have liked. Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski remain out, and Chris Godwin is dealing with a foot injury he suffered late in Week 8 against the New Orleans Saints.

The Bucs had to dip into the free agent pool, bringing back Breshad Perriman as a depth piece. If Godwin can’t go, it looks like Tampa would trot out Perriman, rookie Jaelon Dardon, Tyler Johnson and the old stalwart Mike Evans. Not ideal, but they likely don’t need ideal against their next opponent.

The Washington Football Team has fallen short of just about everyone’s expectations, floundering at 2-6 in a lousy division, and they have not experienced much success containing Evans in the past. In their Wild Card tilt last January, Evans logged 6 catches and 1119 yards. Digging through the history books, Evans went off for 7 catches, 209 yards and 2 touchdowns during his rookie year, and he followed that up one season later in 2015 with 8 catches, 164 yards, and a touchdown.

For what it’s worth, all of those performances came in the national’s capital.

Tom Brady will need that dominant version of Evans to ensure a smooth victory, even if Godwin manages to suit up — you’d imagine the latter would likely be limited.

For a “down” year, Evans has continued his elite level of play. With 39 receptions for 544 yards and 8 touchdowns, the 8-year veteran is well en route to setting another career high in touchdowns and resetting the Bucs single-season receiving TD record, which he’s beaten twice. If he logs another 1,000-yard season, he’ll extend his NFL record for most 1,000-yard campaigns to begin a career.

Oh, and if he scores one more touchdown on Sunday, he’ll tie Tampa legend Mike Alstott’s franchise record for most career TDs. On top of all that, there’s this:

So, for all the talk there’s been lately about Evans getting knocked down the pecking order and not being the team’s best receiver anymore, No. 13 has remained the steady presence he’s always been. He’ll get his chance to remind everyone of that this weekend.

One more tidbit to chew on before we get out of here. Washington is one of the heavier man coverage units in the league, and Evans has caught six of his scores against man coverage — the best mark in the league. Washington is also one of the least-efficient pass defenses in the league, per Sharp Football Analysis, allowing “successful plays” more than 53% of the time.

Good luck, Football Team, you’re probably going to need it.

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