TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS @ WASHINGTON

The only team to make the playoffs without a winning record during the regular season welcome Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Bucs to the capital. Will rookie Chase Young regret his “I want Tom” statement or will Washington pull off the upset?

Washington made the playoffs mainly because of the ineptitude of the NFC East, but partly because of their impressive defense and in particular their defensive line which has been one of the leagues best this season, ranking inside the top 6 for sacks, and all the pressure they provide up front gives the secondary a chance to make plays, and make plays they did, finishing second in the NFL in INT’s and allowing the least amount of explosive (20+ yards) passing plays, which is something I expect to be tested as Tom Brady and the Bucs ranked 3rd in the league for explosive pass plays. This Bucs O-Line will also test this fearsome Washington defensive line as they have only given up 22 sacks which is top 5 in the NFL. Washington’s offense hasn’t been particularly impressive this season which is typically the case when a team starts three QB’s in the space of a season, but with Alex Smith under Center the Washington Football Team are 5-1 but has only 6 TD’s against 8 INT’s this season, which goes to show how important the defense is to this team.

Tampa Bay might have the scariest collection of pass catchers in the NFL, with Mike Evans who became the first player to record 1000 receiving yard season in each of his first 7 years in league and had 13 regular season TD’s potentially being unavailable with a knee injury, the Bucs will be relying on Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski to do the bulk of the receiving… as I said, scariest group of pass catchers in the NFL! And the guy throwing them the football isn’t too bad either, Tom Brady has thrown 40 TD passes this season which is the most since his 50 TD, MVP 2007 season, which is pretty unsurprising when you consider his weapons and strength of his O-Line. The Bucs ran the ball the third least amount of times this season and when you add that to their league leading run defense, I’ll be very surprised if we see much of a run game from either team tonight. This Tampa defense doesn’t give up many points and whilst the pass defense isn’t the best they do have the ability to take the ball away, posting 15 turnovers this season, they’re also a unit that can get to the passer, finishing top 5 in sacks this season, and against a Washington side that gave up the second most sacks during the regular season I’m sure they’re licking their lips.

The last two teams to make the playoffs with losing records won their first playoff game, and that will make Bucs fans nervous but with Alex Smith potentially missing this game I can’t pick against Brady and his Buccaneers who’re unbeaten since their week 13 bye week. As for my best bet we’re again on the Receptions market, and Logan Thomas the big Washington Tight End who leads the team in TD Receptions this season has an U/O of 4.5 which is a number he’s gone over in 4 of his last 5 games, and in the most important game of Washington’s season I don’t see why they’ll get away from the big bodied target here.

PREDICTION: BUCCANEERS 27 – 21 WASHINGTON        

BEST BET:  Logan Thomas OVER 4.5 Receptions –  5/4 with SkyBet. 1 point bet.  

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