Washington Football Team’s Alex Smith (11) plays during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)
- Washington will host Tampa Bay on Wild Card Weekend after winning its first division title since 2015
- The Buccaneers have won four straight, and Tom Brady has racked up 8 TD passes in his last two outings
- Read below for opening odds analysis and a prediction on which way the line will move before kickoff
For the first time since 2014, a sub .500 team will make the playoffs. Washington accomplished the feat by winning the NFC East crown with a 7-9 record, and will now host the red-hot 11-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card Round on Saturday, at 8:15 pm EST.
Tom Brady and company have won four straight heading into this contest, and it’s pretty evident oddsmakers expect that winning streak to continue this weekend.
Buccaneers vs Washington Opening Odds
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-7.0 (-115)||-335||Over 46.5 (-110)|
|Washington Football Team||+7.0 (-105)||+275||Under 46.5 (-110)|
Odds taken Jan 3rd at FanDuel.
The Buccaneers opened up as 7-point favorites and will be looking to advance to the Divisional Round for the first time since 2002, when they won the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl 55 Odds Tracker
Brady and the Bucs are Ballin’
It’s safe to say Tampa Bay is peaking at the right time. They’ve racked up at least 44 points and 485 yards of offense in back-to-back weeks, with Brady tossing 8 TD passes during that stretch.
Tom Brady is the oldest player to ever throw 40+ TDs in a season.
43 TD. Age 43. 🐐 pic.twitter.com/GxPVnZeX28
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 3, 2021
The six-time Super Bowl winner threw for 399 yards and four scores in a Week 17 win over the Atlanta Falcons, becoming just the fifth player in NFL history to record multiple seasons with 40+ TD passes. Tampa Bay did suffer a scare in this contest however, as Mike Evans was carted off the field after dropping a touchdown pass late in the 1st quarter.
#Bucs WR Mike Evans, after hyperextending his knee, is being helped off the field in serious pain. Something to monitor.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 3, 2021
Luckily, it appears Evans avoided any structural damage to his knee and there’s still hope he could play on Saturday versus Washington. In his absence, Antonio Brown had his biggest game as a Buccaneer, hauling in 11 catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball, Tampa Bay’s fourth ranked defense by DVOA forced two turnovers and recorded a sack against Atlanta, despite missing a few key pieces. Stud pass rusher Shaq Barrett, middle linebacker Devin White and nose tackle Steve McLendon all sat out due to COVID, while starting corner Carlton Davis missed his second straight game with a groin injury.
#Bucs RB Ronald Jones is officially ACTIVE.
CB Carlton Davis is OUT for the #Falcons game.
They’re also out LB Shaq Barrett and LB Devin White due to COVID
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) January 3, 2021
All four of their status’ are worth monitoring leading up to kickoff because without them, the Bucs D is not a unit to be feared.
Washington Wins Ugly
It wasn’t pretty, but then again it rarely is with Washington. The Football Team outlasted a depleted Philadelphia Eagles squad 20-14 on Sunday Night Football to set up a date with Tampa Bay. Alex Smith returned from a two-week absence to throw for 162 yards and two touchdowns, but the offense as a whole wasn’t especially sharp.
Alex Smith ➡️ Terry McLaurin
Washington strikes first!
(via @NFL) pic.twitter.com/5PvrQ4HFIJ
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 4, 2021
They racked up just 248 total yards, while Smith threw two interceptions and the team fumbled twice. Washington came into the contest ranked 26th in points per outing, while only two other teams average fewer yards per game.
Their defense on the other hand was sharp as usual, although they did play primarily against Philly second stringers. They racked up three sacks and forced three turnovers, holding the Eagles to 216 total yards. They feature a top-five pass rush and coverage unit, and rank third overall by Pro Football Focus’ defensive metrics.
On the injury front, in addition to Smith, Sunday also marked the return of number one wideout Terry McLaurin. The Ohio State product has been battling a severe high ankle sprain, but looked fine versus the Eagles catching 7 passes including a touchdown. Starting RB Antonio Gibson is also banged up with turf toe, but he too was productive gutting out 75 rushing yards on 19 attempts.
Line Heading in Tampa Bay’s Favor
It’s very hard to imagine Washington being able to keep pace with Tampa Bay given its lack of explosive playmakers. Outside of McLaurin and Gibson, no one on the Football Team’s roster is threatening, while the Buccaneers are loaded with talent on offense even if Evans can’t go.
The juice is already shaded to the Buccaneers’ side and I wouldn’t fault anyone for wanting to back Brady at this point. He’s led Tampa Bay to double-digit wins in three of his past four outings, and his experience and the Bucs’ quick passing attack should help neutralize the Washington pass rush. If you like the Tampa Bay act now, because this line is only going to get higher.
Chris began his career at Hockey Night in Canada over 15 years ago. He has since worked at TSN for over 12 years as a writer, line-up producer, field producer, newsroom supervisor for Sportscentre, and presently as a promotions producer.