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Washington Vs. Buccaneers Preview: Survive And Advance

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After taking down the Philadelphia Eagles with a 20-14 victory to claim the NFC East for the first time since 2015, the Washington Football Team will host the Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card round. Here is everything you need to know about the matchup at FedExField.

GAMEDAY INFORMATION:

Date: Jan. 9

Time 8:15 p.m.

Location: FedExField (Landover, Maryland)

WATCH: NBC

  • Mike Tirico (play-by-play)
  • Tony Dungy (analyst)
  • Kathryn Tappen (reporter)

LISTEN: The Team 980, ESPN 630 and WMAL 105.9

  • Julie Donaldson (host)
  • Bram Weinstein (play-by-play)
  • DeAngelo Hall (analyst)

A stream of the radio broadcast will also be available at WashingtonFootball.com and on select Washington Football Team social media platforms.

ALL-TIME SERIES

  • Washington leads the all-time series, 11-10.
  • Washington has played Tampa Bay 21 times, which is the third-fewest among NFC teams ahead of the Seattle Seahawks (18) and the Carolina Panthers (16).
  • Although Washington has won more games, Tampa Bay has outscored Washington, 381-404
  • Washington has met Tampa Bay in the playoffs in 2000 and 2006. Washington lost the first matchup, 14-13, but won the following game six years later, 17-10.
  • Nine of Washington's 21 games against Tampa Bay have been decided by three points or fewer. Sixteen have been decided by a touchdown or fewer.
  • Washington started the series by winning four straight games from 1977-92. Tampa Bay then won the next four games from 1994-96.
  • Because of a scheduling technicality, Washington and Tampa Bay played each other twice in 1994. Tampa Bay won both matchups by a total of eight points.
  • Washington won the most-recent matchup with Tampa Bay, 16-3, in 2018 at Raymond James Stadium.

COACHING STAFF

Washington:

  • Head coach Ron Rivera (1st season in Washington)
  • Offensive coordinator Scott Turner (1st)
  • Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio (1st)
  • Special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor (2nd)

Tampa Bay:

  • Head coach Bruce Arians (2nd in Tampa Bay)
  • Assistant head coach/run game coordinator Harold Goodwin (2nd)
  • Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich (2nd)
  • Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles (2nd)
  • Special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong (2nd)

BIGGEST STORYLINES

-- Washington's pass rush vs. Tom Brady: It is a foregone conclusion that any hopes of Washington upsetting the Buccaneers will hinge on the performance of its defensive line. Games like this, head coach Ron Rivera said Monday morning, is why some teams invest in the position group.

"Getting here and having a chance to see what San Francisco had done the last couple years and then looking at this roster...then just looking at that youth and...that if we developed the youth properly, we'd develop something good. I think we're starting to get that. I mean, we're still developing. They're still learning. They're still growing. But their potential is most certainly on display."

The group, led by Pro Bowler and captain Chase Young, has proven that Washington chose wisely in building around it. The team is sixth in the NFL with 47.0 sacks and tied for seventh in adjusted sack rate. Despite ranking 13th in blitz percentage, the team is fourth in pressures. Even if the defensive line does not get to the quarterback, it has still been able to affect the passing game with 15 pass deflections.

The pass rush will have one of its toughest tests in trying to take down Tom Brady. The Buccaneers have allowed the fourth-fewest sacks (22), which has allowed Brady to lead a second-best passing offense. His 4,633 yards are the fifth-highest of his career, and he has thrown for 40 touchdowns for just the second time in 21 seasons. He might be 43 years old, but Rivera said he is still throwing the ball like he is 20 years younger.

"He's got the arm strength. He delivers a good ball. He's still who he is. That's the scary part. He may be that age, but he sure doesn't play like it. When you watch him, I know he spreads it around, too. You can't sit there and say: 'I know he's going to throw it to [Rob Gronkowski] or he's going to throw it to Mike [Evans] or he's going to throw it to [Antonio] Brown.' He's going to do what he does based on what he sees and his years of experience."

The numbers indicate that Washington will need to put pressure on Brady in order to win. Four of Tampa Bay's five losses have come when Brady is pressured on at least 18% of his dropbacks, and his accuracy dips to 33.7% when he is pressured. Whether the pass rush gets to Brady or alters his efficiency, it will be imperative for it to hinder him throughout the night.

"It's Tom," Young told the media after the Eagles game. "One of the best to ever do it. They say the best to ever do it. So, we gotta focus up, we gotta lock back in. ...It's go time. It's that time."

-- Washington's secondary takes on a talented wide receiver corps: Brady is having one of his better seasons, but it helps that he is playing with some of the best group of receivers he has had in his career. Tampa Bay's offense, which averages 384.1 yards per game, features receivers like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown. At tight end, Rob Gronkowski is third on the team with 623 receiving yards, while Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard have 428 yards and four touchdowns between them.

Washington's secondary, which allows a second-best 191.8 passing yards per game, will be one of the best groups Brady has faced all year. Despite being a completely different set of players from last year, the team's defensive backs have gelled well and caused problems for quarterbacks all year. Kendall Fuller leads the team with four interceptions; Ronald Darby, who joined the team with questions about his consistency, has 16 pass deflections; and rookie Kamren Curl has three interceptions since replacing an injured Landon Collins. The team has a cover grade of 83.4, according to Pro Football Focus, which is the second-highest in the NFL.

That does not guarantee Washington will completely shut Brady down, but it does help that the future Hall of Famer has struggled against above average secondaries this season. Against the Los Angeles Rams -- the only team that has a better secondary than Washington in terms of yards allowed -- Brady completed just 54% of his passes for 218 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, which was his least efficient performance of the season.

Brady has seen and done it all, Rivera said, so there is not much Washington can do to surprise him. Instead, the team has to be judicious with its coverage and "throw the unexpected at him."

"Your looks can't be the same. All of these little detail things that you've just got to understand in what you're doing and how you do it. Whether it's something as similar as a linebacker tilting one way or the other or a guy standing there like a statue because that's the true indicator that he's blitzing, a guy that fakes up into the line on top of us. You've got to mix those looks up for him."

-- Can Washington's offense do enough to win again?: Washington has followed a certain formula this season: rely on the defense and play good enough on offense to win the game. Ever since Smith has been the starter, that strategy has worked for the most part, as Washington is 5-1 with him under center.

The difference between the Buccaneers and Washington's previous opponents is that they have a top 10 offense (7th) and defense (6th). Not only will the defense need to play well, but the offense will likely need to have more production than the 248 yards it had against the Eagles in Week 17.

"They're really good up front. Really good up front," Smith said. "Then on top of that, they're very active as a group. They present a lot. They bring it all over the place. They give you a lot to prepare for, a ton of looks on the back end. I think any of those 11 guys can come at some point. That kind of volume, obviously, is tough to prepare for."

Tampa Bay's defensive front has forced 48.0 sacks and holds offenses to 80.6 rushing yards per game. But if Washington can hold off a unit that is second in the NFL in pressures, it will have opportunities to take advantage of the Buccaneers' secondary, which is 21st against the pass and 29th in opponent completion percentage.

Washington has strived to be balanced all season; it will need to establish the running and passing game to keep up with a Buccaneers offense that scores 30.8 points per game, and Turner is confident his offense will find a way to do exactly that.

"We've got to stay balanced. That's what it takes to be a successful offense. I feel good. I feel like our line's up for the challenge, our backs are up for the challenge, and we'll be able to run it. We've got to be balanced."

INDIVIDUAL STATS LEADERS

Washington:

  • Passing Yards -- QB Alex Smith (1,582)
  • Passing TDs -- QB Alex Smith (6)
  • Rushing Yards -- RB Antonio Gibson (795)
  • Rushing TDs -- RB Antonio Gibson (11)
  • Receiving Yards -- WR Terry McLaurin (1,118)
  • Receiving TDs -- TE Logan Thomas (6)
  • Tackles -- LB Jon Bostic (118)
  • Sacks -- DE Montez Sweat (9.0)
  • Interceptions -- CB Kendall Fuller (4)

Tampa Bay:

  • Passing Yards -- QB Tom Brady (4,633)
  • Passing TDs -- QB Tom Brady (40)
  • Rushing Yards -- RB Ronald Jones (978)
  • Rushing TDs -- RB Ronald Jones (7)
  • Receiving Yards -- WR Mike Evans (1,006)
  • Receiving TDs -- WR Mike Evans (13)
  • Tackles -- LB Devin White (140)
  • Sacks -- LB Jason Pierre-Paul (9.5)
  • Interceptions -- CB Carlton Davis (4)

TEAM STATS LEADERS

Washington:

  • Total offense -- 30th (317.3 YPG)
  • Scoring offense -- T-25th (20-9 PPG)
  • Passing offense -- 25th (216.6 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed -- T-29th (50)
  • Rushing offense -- 26th (100.7 YPG)
  • Third-down offense -- T-23th (39.1%)
  • Total defense -- 2nd (304.6 YPG)
  • Scoring defense -- 4th (20.6 PPG)
  • Passing defense -- 2nd (191.8 YPG)
  • Sacks -- 6th (47.0)
  • Rushing defense -- T-13th (112.8 YPG)
  • Third-down defense -- 6th (37.5%)
  • Time of possession -- 18th (29:54)
  • Turnover differential -- T-23rd (-4)

Tampa Bay:

  • Total offense -- 7th (384.1 YPG)
  • Scoring offense -- 3rd (30.8 PPG)
  • Passing offense -- 2nd (289.1 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed -- 4th (22)
  • Rushing offense -- T-28th (98.9 YPG)
  • Third-down offense -- 11th (43.5%)
  • Total defense -- 6th (327.1 YPG)
  • Scoring defense -- 8th (22.2 PPG)
  • Passing defense -- T-21st (246.6 YPG)
  • Sacks -- T-4th (48.0)
  • Rushing defense -- 1st (80.6 YPG)
  • Third-down defense -- 14th (40.0%)
  • Time of possession -- 24th (28:54)
  • Turnover differential -- 6th (+8)

INJURY REPORT:

Check out the injury report for Washington's game against the Eagles, HERE.

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