2021 NFC Wild Card Preview: Tampa Bay vs Washington

In this crazy, crazy, year… wait… it is 2021 now, and the NFC Wild Card games are coming up, which means the year is off to a good start. In 2021, we as football fans have some good things to look forward to, including the playoffs this weekend. Yes, the NFL season is already almost at its end. However, that does not mean we can’t enjoy the rest of it. And if your team did not make it, you should probably watch anyway because you never know when it can be taken away from you.

When we- the fans- started this journey on September 10th, 2020, most of us did not think the season would make it all the way through, and yet here we are. Some crazy things happened this season, with teams being at risk in one of the most dangerous sports, more than ever before. We have crews who did not get a bye week due to the virus taking over in certain areas. There were also some Tuesday night games and other weird, funky stuff in this season.

But most of all, the season was successful and made it through 2020. Yes, the season is not over yet, but the end is near, even when we do not want it here. So, when these AFC and NFC Wild Card games start this Saturday and Sunday, let’s not take for granted the opportunity we have at watching the best football in America. One of the games people should watch for in the NFC Wild Card games is none other than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Football team, in a game that may be more interesting than you think.

How We Got Here

NFC Wild Card
TAMPA, FL – OCTOBER 18: Tom Brady (12) of the Buccaneers gives directions to his receiver during the regular season game between the Green Bay Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on October 18, 2020 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Like I said 20 times above, this NFL season was crazy, and you may need to know how we got here. Well, to start, the NFC East was by far the worst division in all of football and did not have a team finish with a winning record. Washington ended up winning the division with a 7-9 record, as they battled the Eagles in week 17 to try and clinch a spot in the playoffs. If Washington had lost, the Giants would have gotten in with their tiebreaker.

Washington is coming off of a weird season at quarterback, where they recently released their former first-round pick in Dwayne Haskins for a combination of off and on-field issues. However, the comeback story of Alex Smith has been something to brag about. The man went from nearly losing his leg and life to leading this team to the postseason.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers obviously had quite the off-season, as they acquired the greatest football player ever, in some minds, and one of the best tight ends this league has ever seen. They finished the season 11-5, putting them second in their division behind the New Orleans Saints and in the fifth spot as an NFC Wild Card team.

They also improved all-around but were not very consistent throughout the season, losing games by large margins and winning the same way next week. This team can go far in the playoffs, but they have to get past Washington first.

NFC Wild Card Defense

Tampa Bay’s Defense

NFC Wild Card
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – SEPTEMBER 13: Michael Thomas #13 of the New Orleans Saints is tackled by Jordan Whitehead #33 and Sean Murphy-Bunting #23 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 13, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Tampa Bay has a much-improved defense this year, including their pass defense. At the end of 2019, the Buccaneers finished 28th in the league in pass yards allowed per game. They have now upgraded their defense in that category to 19th, with 246 passing yards allowed per game.

The Buccaneers have 48 sacks on the season, to go along with 15 interceptions and 15 forced fumbles. It is safe to say they create turnovers and wreak havoc. Tampa Bay’s rush defense is just as lethal as last season, where they ranked first in run yards allowed per game. They still hold that number one spot with only 80 yards per game. This defense should be able to put on a show against the Washington offense that has struggled at times this year.

Washington’s Defense

NFC Wild Card
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert (88) catches a pass on his way to scoring a touchdown against Washington Football Team Kevin Pierre-Louis (54) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington’s defense has been one of the surprises this year, as they have improved in nearly every category. Their defensive line is top of the league in quarterback pressures, and we know that Tom Brady tends to struggle under pressure, especially being in his 40’s. Washington is second in total yards allowed per game at 304, which is surprising for a team that has struggled this season, and finished 7-9.

The pass defense is what fans should watch for in this NFC Wild Card matchup, as Washington has the second-best pass defense in the league. They only allow 191 yards per game in that area, whereas, in 2019, they were ranked 19th. This team can also get after the quarterback and bring him down, as they finished with 47 sacks. Their forced turnover number is very similar to Tampa Bay’s, with 16 interceptions and 14 forced fumbles.

NFC Wild Card Offense, Kind of

Tampa Bay’s Offense

NFC Wild Card
DETROIT, MICHIGAN – DECEMBER 26: Mike Evans #13 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates a touchdown with Tom Brady #12 during the first quarter of a game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 26, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

Tampa has a lethal offense with incredible weapons, giving Tom Brady plenty of options to choose from on that side of the ball. Last season, they were the third-ranked offense in terms of total yards per game with 397. This season is much of the same, as they are ranked seventh with 384 yards per game.

In 2019, the Buccaneers led the NFL in passing yards per game, mostly due to the game scripts they were put in and the arm of Jameis Winston letting it fly. This season, they finished second in passing yards per game with 289.

The rushing offense for Tampa Bay is their weakness and can hurt them at times. However, they have shown flashes with both Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette. With 94 rushing yards a game, the Buccaneers rank near the bottom half of the league at 27th. Even with those struggles, this offense can be a nightmare for any NFC Wild Card team.

Washington’s Offense-ish

NFC Wild Card
Oct 18, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants linebacker Tae Crowder (48) runs back a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter against the Washington Football Team at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

This NFC Wild Card team- yes it feels so weird to say that- has a terrible offense.

It is no secret that they struggle to score, with only four games of at least 25 points on the season. This offense is ranked low in nearly every category, meaning they became an NFC Wild Card team off the strength of this great defense.

They are 28th in total yards per game with 317, where they were also 28th last season. Washington is also ranked low in the passing category, as they are 23rd overall and were 30th last season. While they have also had flashes of greatness with their run game in Antonio Gibson, they rank just 25th in total rush yards per game. Even though this offense is a bit shaky, they still have players like Terry McLaurin who can take it to the house at any moment. The NFC Wild Card game will be mostly defensive, but has potential for some offense.

NFC Wild Card Prediction

On NBC on a Saturday night, the Washington Football Team will host Tampa Bay in a NFC Wild Card game, even though they have a worse record. In most seasons, the home-field advantage would be much more optimal. However, in this case, not so much. Due to COVID-19, there will not be many fans in the stands, but it will be kind of cold.

On Saturday in Washington, at FedEx Field, the high will be 39, with a low of 28. Besides Tom Brady, who spent most of his career in cold weather in New England and even Michigan, the Buccaneers will be susceptible to the cold. The Buccaneers are most likely training in their 60-degree weather, which, by the way, sounds perfect right now.

This NFC Wild Card game will be more competitive than people think, and in my opinion, Washington has a chance to win it. Will they? Probably not, but do not sleep on their defense. With the front four that Washington has, they can create havoc in this game.

In my prediction, I see Tampa Bay getting this NFC Wild Card win, only by a touchdown and no more than two scores. Their offense will be great, but without Mike Evans, the Buccaneers will struggle in the red zone.

FINAL SCORE

Tampa Bay: 27

Washington: 17

Thanks for reading my article on the NFC Wild Card matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Washington Football Team.

Follow me on Twitter @JustinLChurch for more of my content, and follow @OT_Heroics!

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