Buccaneers game day is approaching, and it’s time for the PewterReport.com staff to offer up its weekly game predictions. Let us know what you think in the article comments section and add your prediction, too.
WHEN: January 9, 2021 KICKOFF: 8:15 p.m. ET WHERE: FedEx Field TV: NBC PLAY-BY-PLAY: Mike Tirico ANALYSTS: Tony Dungy SIDELINE: Kathryn Tappen RADIO: 98 ROCK 97.9 FM PLAY-BY-PLAY: Gene Deckerhoff ANALYST: Dave Moore SIDLINE: T.J. Rives SPANISH RADIO: 96.1 FM PLAY-BY-PLAY: Carlos Bohorquez ANALYST: Martin Gramatica
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Scott Reynolds: Bucs Beat Washington, Advance In The Playoffs
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The Buccaneers are the better team in this playoff match-up against the Washington Football Team. Tampa Bay’s 11-5 record is proof of that, while Washington had to win at Philadelphia in Week 17 to improve to 7-9 and win the NFC East division. But the records go out the window in the postseason, especially because Washington has one of the best defenses in the NFL and has held its last seven opponents to 20 points or less. The strength of Ron Rivera’s defense starts up front with five – that’s five – first-round picks, including defensive ends Chase Young, Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan and defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne. Tampa Bay’s offensive line is in for a challenge, but has only allowed 22 sacks this season – a far cry from last year when the O-line surrendered 47.
The Bucs offense is averaging 30.8 points per season – 10 more than Washington is averaging – and is loaded with way more firepower. Tampa Bay’s offense has been hitting on all cylinders since the bye week, averaging 37 points per game over the last four games. While Tampa Bay has scored over 40 points in back-to-back games, don’t look for that to happen against Washington’s stingy defense. But I think the Bucs will score 30 points, which is something they’ve done eight times this season, and that should be enough to win in the nation’s capital, as Washington’s offense isn’t explosive and won’t be able to keep up. Tom Brady utilizing the quick screen game to Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski is key to negating Washington’s pass rush.
Getting off to another good, fast start is critical for the Bucs, and racing out to a double-digit lead should make Washington one dimensional and allow Todd Bowles’ defense to tee off with some exotic blitz looks against Alex Smith, who is a stationary target with a calf injury. Even if the Bucs see backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke, Bowles should be aggressive and bring an extra pass rusher, whether it’s linebacker Kevin Minter or Lavonte David, or safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. For more on Tampa Bay’s playoff game at Washington, read my SR’s Fab 5 column where I list my 4 Match-ups To Watch.
Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Buccaneers 30, Washington 20 Reynolds’ Season Record: 13-3
Mark Cook: Bucs Eek Out Win, Move On In Playoff Return
This game scares me. A lot. Maybe it’s because of Tampa Bay’s 2005 loss to Washington and the 2007 loss to the Giants in the playoffs that the Bucs were favored to win. Maybe it is the shell-shocked feeling I have from watching this team the last 12 seasons – well, really since 1977 – and seeing them have hiccup games at the worst possible time. But I have to keep telling myself this is a different team, and I need to expect a different outcome.
The No. 1 key to winning this game will come down to how well Tampa Bay can protect quarterback Tom Brady. We can debate the Bucs’ secondary play, Todd Bowles’ scheme, how many play-action passes the team will run or Ron Rivera’s 2-0 record vs. Bruce Arians in the playoffs, but truthfully none of that matters. If the Buccaneers keep the pocket clean for Brady there isn’t a team Tampa Bay can’t beat – and that includes the Packers, Saints, Rams, Bills or Chiefs.
I don’t see a blowout for the Bucs. Instead, it will be a tighter, lower-scoring affair on Saturday night. The forecast is calling for cold temperatures in the low 30s getting down into the high 20s before the game ends. I am not sure how the field conditions will be, but with rain in Washington D.C. on Friday, and cold weather on Saturday, it may take the Bucs a quarter or so to get their footing – literally. But the better team wears pewter and red, and they also happen to have the better quarterback. That should be enough for the Bucs to escape move onto next week’s divisional round.
Cook’s Score Prediction: Buccaneers 27, Washington 19 Cook’s Season Record: 11-5
Jon Ledyard: Won’t Be Pretty, But Bucs Good Enough
The Bucs offense is about to get one of its stiffest tests of the season in a Washington Football team defense that can do two things that typically give Bruce Arians’ teams trouble: take away the big passing play and apply pressure to the quarterback. In the past, Arians hasn’t always been great at adjusting his offense and staying patient when teams are playing two-deep coverage and dropping off their corners, and he hasn’t always schemed in appropriate answers for pressure in the passing game.
But over the past month, the Bucs have improved dramatically in both of those areas, and Arians currently has the best quarterback he’s ever had in Tom Brady. With the veteran signal caller on an absolute tear over the last month and the Bucs utilizing more effective offensive methods like first down passing and play-action, it’ll be fascinating to see if they continue evolve against the best defense they’ve played since Los Angeles, or if they devolve back to their primitive and inconsistent early season form.
In the end, it really shouldn’t be the difference between winning and losing, not against Washington. The Football Team is banged up on offense and remarkably weak at quarterback whether an injured Alex Smith or an inexperienced Taylor Heinicke gets the start. Todd Bowles’ defense needs to have an aggressive, lock-down type of performance, crowding Washington’s shorter pass concepts and forcing them to complete big plays down the field – something the Football Team hasn’t done all season. If Bowles dials up a B-plus game plan and the Bucs don’t beat themselves with turnovers, blown coverages and penalties, Tampa Bay should be able to at least win an ugly one on Saturday night.
Ledyard’s Score Prediction: Buccaneers 22, Washington 13 Ledyard’s Season Record: 15-1
Matt Matera: It Won’t Be Easy, But Bucs Win And Advance
The Bucs are the favorite to win this game over the Washington Football team, but it won’t come easy as Washington is 5-1 when Alex Smith is their starting quarterback. Washington had the luxury of playing the NFC East, but if the Bucs think they can waltz into the game on Saturday night expecting to win, their season will be done earlier than you think.
No offense has been more efficient than the Bucs over the last two games. Tom Brady has thrown for eight touchdowns in his last six quarters of football and has found some really great rhythm with his receivers in Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. Even if Evans can’t go, they have plenty to work with on offense. The name of the game for the Bucs is stopping Washington’s pass rush. This may be the best front they’ve played all season with edge rushers Chase Young and Montez Sweat, so it’s going to be all on the offensive line to keep Brady clean.
Defensively, it’ll hurt that Devin White won’t be out there, but they are getting Shaq Barrett and Carlton Davis III back. The big thing here is the Bucs must play press-man coverage and force Alex Smith to hold onto the ball. Do that and Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul can get home, play soft zone and Smith will dink and dunk until they’re down the field. I think the Bucs will make the right choice.
Matera’s Score Prediction: Bucs 28, Washington 20 Matera’s Season Record: 12-4
Taylor Jenkins: Bucs Win In Postseason Return
Washington has relied heavily on its elite defense to scrap out wins this season, allowing just 20.6 points per game, good for the fourth-best mark in the league. Washington’s defense has performed so well by limiting big plays and creating pressure with a fierce front four built atop four former first-round picks and highlighted by edge rushers Montez Sweat and Chase Young. Pressure up front has given Tampa Bay issues at times this season and with two veteran corners lining up behind Washington’s front seven, the Football Team has managed 47 sacks, the sixth-best mark in the league.
This could be a situation where the Bucs are forced to battle through another slow start, something that had become a trend for Tampa Bay throughout the season, but I just have to wonder whether Washington can keep up with the Bucs’ firepower even if they do struggle out of the gates. While Washington’s defense is fierce, its offense has been far from the same as the team has managed just over 20 points per game. This offense could be even more hampered if starting quarterback Alex Smith isn’t able to play the entire game, something that has been rumored by head coach Ron Rivera, and Washington has to turn to former undrafted free agent Taylor Heinicke.
Should Tampa Bay’s struggle to move the ball early it will be key for them to lean on Ronald Jones II to stay on schedule and keep the chains moving against Washington’s 14th-ranked rushing defense. Defensively, the Bucs will have to key in on Washington’s threats in the backfield, something that will be an even tougher test with the absence of Devin White. Running backs Antonio Gibson, Jr. and J.D. McKissic, in addition to tight end Logan Thomas, prove match-up problems that take advantage of something that the Bucs have struggled with, limiting the success of a short passing game. All-in-all, I think Tampa Bay’s offense is so strong that it will find a way to score points, some way, some how, and that the Bucs defense will hold up well enough against a meager Washington offense to give Tampa Bay its first postseason victory since winning the franchise’s lone Super Bowl in 2002.
Jenkins’ Score Prediction: Buccaneers 30, Washington 16 Jenkins’ Season Record: 12-4
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Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at email@example.com