NFL Saturday Night Football: Buccaneers/Football Team Preview

by Big Al Staff

The Saturday night conclusion to the Super Wild Card Playoff Weekend tripleheader has Tampa Bay visiting Washington in a showdown on ABC and the ESPN networks at 8:15 PM ET.

The Buccaneers claimed the top wild card slot by winning their last four games to end the regular season with an 11-5 record. They defeated Atlanta last Sunday by a 44-27 score as a 7.5-point favorite.

Tom Brady has found his rhythm with his new team. Over his last three games, the 43-year old completed 70% of his passes for 1137 passing yards with ten touchdown passes and only one interception. For the season, Brady completed 66% of his passes for 4633 yards with 40 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. He leads an offense that is third in the league by scoring 30.8 points-per-game.

The Tampa Bay defense ranks sixth in the NFL by holding their opponents to 327.6 yards-per-game. The Bucs had the stingiest run defense during the regular season by allowing only 80.6 rushing yards-per-game. Yet this unit was susceptible to the pass as they ranked 21st by giving up 247 passing yards-per-game.

Washington rallied from a 2-7 start to win the NFC East by winning five of their last seven games. The Football Team has not allowed more than 20 points during that span. Washington ranked second in the league by only giving up 304.6 yards-per-game.

The strength of their defense is their pass rush that registered 47 sacks, the sixth most in the NFL. The Football Team was also second by allowing only 191.8 passing yards-per-game, and they led the league by giving up the fewest pass plays of more than 20 yards. Their 16 interceptions tie for the second-most in the NFL.

The Football Team clinched their playoff spot last Sunday night in their 20-14 win at Philadelphia. Alex Smith completed 22 of 32 passes for 162 yards with two touchdown passes and two interceptions to lead Washington to the victory. The Football Team has won five of their six games, with Smith starting under center. He completed 66.7% of his passes in his eight games with 1582 yards, but he threw eight interceptions with only six touchdown passes. His passer rating during the regular season was only 78.5.

Smith is questionable for this game with a calf injury. Head coach Ron Rivera suggested earlier in the week that he may have to split time between Smith and backup Taylor Heinecke under center. Washington also listed running back Antonio Gibson, wider receiver Terry McLaurin, and linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis as questionable, but all four players participated in limited practice at the end of the week. Linebacker Thomas Davis is out with a knee injury joining 13 other players on the roster who are either out the season or on Injured Reserve.

Tampa Bay will be without Devin White, who is on their COVID list. The linebacker leads the team in tackles, and his nine sacks are second-most. Defensive lineman Jeremiah Ledbetter is out with a calf injury. Cornerback Carlton Davis is questionable but was a full participant in practice by the end of the week. Wide receiver Mike Evans is also questionable after taking part in limited practice. Running back LeSean McCoy did not practice this week but remained listed as questionable. The Bucs have six other players either out the season or on their Injured Reserve.

BetAnySports lists Tampa Bay as a 7.5-point favorite with the total set at 44.5.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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