The Washington Football Team was able to win the NFC East with a victory in the last game of the regular season. They finished with a record of 7-9 and will host the 11-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers tonight (8.15pm ET Saturday; TV: Live on NBC).
This matchup features two of the best defenses in the NFL and should be a slugfest, but how will our predictions for this playoff game work out? Read on for the full preview.
The Buccaneers rank 2nd in the league in pressure rate at 26.7%, only behind the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tampa also ranks tied for 3rd in average sacks per game (3.0) and Washington ranks 4th with 2.9 sacks per game. Both these teams can get after the passer and can cause havoc for the quarterback. This could prove disastrous as both Alex Smith and Tom Brady are far from mobile. Smith has been dealing with a calf injury that has made him immobile for much of the season.
Washington defensive end Montez Sweat leads the team with nine sacks and rookie superstar Chase Young added 7.5 sacks and led the team with four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and one defensive touchdown. Young looks to be the frontrunner for defensive rookie of the year.
Washington’s dominant pass rush has helped lift the secondary for much of the season. They ranked 2nd in the NFL in average passing yards allowed per game (191.8) and were one of three teams to allow less than 200.0 yards through the air per game. They also ranked 2nd in total yards allowed per game (304.6) and were tied for 2nd in the league in interceptions (16). Expect Washington to bring the heat and pressure Brady throughout the game. In their five losses this season Brady was pressured 27% versus in their 11 wins he was only pressured at a 12% rate.
Tampa also has a strong defense, but they will be without one of their best defenders come tonight. Starting linebacker Devin White is out due to a positive COVID test. White led the team in total (140) and solo tackles (97) and was 2nd in sacks (9). The Bucs were tied for 4th with 25 turnovers in the regular season. They had 15 interceptions, which was good enough to be tied for 3rd in the NFL. The Buccaneers were one of the best teams against the run during the regular season. They finished ranked 1st in the league in average rushing yards allowed per game (80.6). They were the only team to allow less than 90 yards on the ground per game.
Where the Buccaneers can be exploited on defense is through the air, but I am not confident that Washington will be able to take advantage. They allowed 246.6 passing yards per game, which was 21st out of 32 teams. Washington was one of the weaker passing attacks and only averaged 216.6 yards in the air per game (25th). Starting quarterback Alex Smith hasn’t thrown for 200 or more yards since Week 13 against the Steelers. He has been bothered by a calf injury that has kept him out of practice throughout the week. As of Thursday he had yet to practice and backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke took all of the first team reps. It sounds like Smith will be able to go today, but his lack of mobility is going to be a major concern against a defense that pressures at such a high rate.
Our Betting Preview’s Tampa vs WFT Predictions & Picks Verdict
USA Betting is going to be playing the total under here. These are two stout defenses that can cause havoc for opposing quarterbacks. I think both teams will be able to get pressure and have a handful of sacks, which should limit the amount of scoring opportunities.
In the regular season the under was 10-5-1 in Washington games. Another factor that lends to the under is the predicted cold weather. In outdoor playoff games where the temperature is 35 degrees or colder the under is 81-60-4. It looks like the temperature will be hovering right around that 35-degree mark come kickoff today.
If I were to play a side I would have to take the points with Washington at home. Teams at .500 or with a losing record (Washington is 7-9) are 7-0 ATS and 6-1 straight up. Another aspect that makes me look to Washington is Tom Brady’s ineptitude in primetime games this season. Brady is on the record saying that he generally goes to bed around 8pm ET. The NFL did him no favors scheduling this game to start at 8:15pm ET.
This season in primetime games the Bucs are 1-3 straight up and 0-4 against the spread. In those four games Brady threw five touchdowns and five interceptions. I ultimately feel more comfortable taking the total under. I see this being a slugfest that Tampa ends up pulling out 23-13. So the conclusion of our Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs WFT predictions and the one pick is:
- Go under 46 total points @ -115 with Bookmaker.