Washington Football vs. Tampa Bay Preview

Washington Football
Credit: John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

By: Ryan Cooley

The Washington Football Team won the NFC East Sunday night and will host a playoff game for the first time since 2015. The game wasn’t pretty and stirred plenty of controversies, but Washington held on and finished the regular season 7-9 after a 2-7 start.

Washington will host the 11-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 8:15 PM on Saturday. They open as 7-point underdogs.

Players to Watch for Washington

Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen: I group these two together as they are both crucial to winning. The only chance Washington has at winning will be from pressuring Brady. In the past, he struggled when interior defensive linemen generate consistent pressure. Allen is PFF’s 11th ranked interior D-lineman and has an 83.5 pass-rush grade. Payne has not been nearly as effective rushing the passer (60 pass-rush grade).

Logan Thomas: Thomas has been a pleasant surprise on this lackluster offense. He struggled to separate consistently early on. However, in the second half of this season, he has found ways to get open and make bigs plays. In the past five games, Thomas has 38 receptions for 342 yards and 2 TDs. If this offense wants to move the ball, they must get Thomas involved early and often.

Alex Smith: Smith struggled immensely in his past two games (completing only 58% of passes, two TDs, and three INTs). His inability to move due to his injuries prevented this offense from sustaining drives. Tampa blitzes around 40% of the time, which may lead to a nightmare game for Smith. Don’t be surprised if Rivera turns to a much more mobile quarterback in Heinicke if Smith cannot perform.

Players to Watch for Tampa Bay

Rob Gronkowski: Gronk is a player to watch not just because of his receiving ability, but also his blocking. If Tampa wants to keep Brady upright, they may keep Gronk in as an extra blocker. However, he may play a significant role in the passing game since the Bucs might go for a lot of short/quick passes to avoid the pass rush. In just 45 receptions, Gronk has 623 yards (13.8 yds/rec) and 7 TDs.

Ronald Jones: When people think about Tampa Bay’s offense, its passing attack is the first thing that comes to mind. However, their rushing game has been stellar all year. Ronald Jones is averaging 5.1 yards per carry (just .3 less than Derrick Henry) on 192 attempts. He also holds the 6th highest rushing grade among qualified RBs. Washington’s run defense has struggled at times, and the Bucs could take advantage of that. With Washington’s offense struggling, Tampa may want to ground and pound to dominate time of possession.

Devin White: White put together a solid sophomore campaign while successfully rushing passers. The former 5th overall pick has considerable speed (4.42 forty time). White has an 85.9 pass-rush grade, which could cause a problem for Washington. We saw what Washington’s offense looked like Sunday night when a defense brings pressure. Expect to see a lot of White on blitzes Saturday night.

How Washington can Win

Washington will need to bring pressure all game to knock Brady off rhythm. When under pressure, Brady’s passing grade drops from 95.1 to 61.5. Allen and Payne will be the most crucial in this area. They will also have to establish some level of a run game. If your passing game is struggling, you at least need to have some success on the ground. If the defense can hold Tampa’s offense back, Washington’s offense cannot consistently have three and outs. Finally, Washington will need to play all 60 minutes. They are notorious for their slow starts but cannot afford to go down multiple scores against a team like the Buccaneers.

Prediction: 31-10 Tampa Bay

Overall, this is going to be a challenge to beat Brady and the Bucs. The offense is not close to being able to score consistently against the 6th ranked Bucs defense. Washington’s defense has a chance to slow down Tampa’s pass game by bringing pressure, but they will also need to limit the Bucs ground game. I believe Smith will struggle due to the Buccaneer’s relentless blitzes, and Heinicke may enter the game.

Win or lose, this season couldn’t have been more of a success for everything Washington has had to endure in 202The football Gods seemed pressed on breaking this team from the sexual harassment charges in the offseason to the Haskins situation. However, with Ron Rivera at the reins, they showed grit and determination. I am excited to see what the next chapter holds for this young group of players.

Ryan Cooley
About Ryan Cooley 108 Articles
Ryan is currently a communications major at the College of Southern Maryland. He is one of the biggest football fans you will ever meet. His favorite teams are the New England Patriots and Washington Redskins. Outside of the Patriots, he is just a fan of D.C. teams (Wizards, Caps, Nats).

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