Buc Up!…with Rob Kriete – JANUARY 8
-Tampa Bay (11-5) will travel as a Wild Card team to Washington (7-9) for an 8:15 kickoff on NBC. The drama and tribulations of the NFC East have been well documented. Yet, after the dust settled in what should have been called the NFC Least, the Washington Football Team earned the right to host this game as the division winner, albeit with a losing record.
– Since divisional play began, 438 teams have earned division championships. Washington is the third club in league history to win its division with a record below .500. However, each of those two previous teams – the 2010 Seattle Seahawks and the 2014 Carolina Panthers– were victorious in their first-round playoff games.
-However, the road club has won six of the last eight NFL Wild Card games over the past two seasons. Since the 2017 playoffs, road teams are 8-4. And, in seven of the past eight seasons, at least one road team has won a Wild Card game.
-The Buccaneers sports a 6-9 playoff record with one Super Bowl Championship in 2002. The Washington Football Teams owns a 23-19 payoff record and have earned five Championships.
-Bucs QB, Tom Brady, is the NFL postseason all-time leader in starts (41), completions (1,025), pass yards (11,388), pass TDs (73), and of course, Super Bowl titles (6).
-Washington QB, Alex Smith, has 1,745 pass yards (249.3 per game) and 15 TDs (14 pass, 1 rush) in seven career postseason starts (with SF and KC).
-Tampa Bay’s rookie safety standout, Antoine Winfield, spoke with our interview bulldog, Leo Haggerty, this week:
Leo Haggerty: “You’re going to the playoffs your first year in the league. Some of your teammates have been here almost 10 years and it’s their first trip to the NFL second season. How do you treat this in your own mind?”
Antoine Winfield: “It’s a blessing, especially hearing from guys like Lavonte who have been on the team for nine years, and this is his first playoffs. I’m definitely not taking anything for granted because it’s hard to get here. Everybody’s good in the NFL, and so I’m just blessed that I have the opportunity to be in the playoffs my first year.”
-Washington DE Chase Young made news this week by calling out Tom Brady. The bold standout player led all rookies in sacks (7.5) and aims for his 3rd in row with sack. Pay attention to the Bucs’ ability to keep Young off Brady during the game.
-Leo also spoke with Washington Head Coach “Riverboat” Ron Rivera about Young, precisely, this week, as well as the prospect of playing in snowy weather:
Leo Haggerty: “Do you expect to see the tight ends set up to Chase Young’s side to chip him and widen him to help the tackles?”
Ron Rivera: “We expect that to happen on both sides. I think we have dynamic rushers, and we’ve seen it. For the most part, if they put a tight end to one side, they’ll offset a back to the other side. People do a lot things to slow our guys down. We’ll see what they come up with. Not everybody does it but I do expect them to do it. Bruce is a very smart coach. Again, he knows how to attack defenses. “
Leo Haggerty: “Tampa Bay is coming out of 80-degree weather coming up to your place. Is Mother Nature going to play a factor in this game?”
Ron Rivera: “I hope so. I hope it gets mean and nasty, and it starts to snow and flurries. Don’t forget though that Tom played there for 20 years in New England so it might now phase him.”
-Defensively for the Buccaneers, Jason Pierre-Paul has 12.5 sacks in 13 career games against Washington. At the same time, DT Ndamukong Suh has five sacks in six career postseason games.
-Talking with Bucs Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles, Leo tried to glean some intelligence on game planning for Alex Smith:
Leo Haggerty: “Mobile quarterbacks give every defense trouble. Alex Smith is not a mobile quarterback. Does that change your mindset on how you rush him by maybe putting more color in his face up the middle?”
Todd Bowles: “No, it doesn’t change things much. Alex is a very smart quarterback. He understands what he has to do to get rid of the football when he can and can’t make plays. He’s been doing it for a long time, and he’s very savvy that way. We have to be prepared for the best Alex Smith that we’re going to face.”
-Bucs TE, Rob Gronkowski, has 12 career postseason receiving TDs, tied-2nd most in NFL history, and Antonio Brown has 51 receptions for 837 yards with four TDs in 10 career playoff games.
-Washington WR Terry McLaurin led his team with 87 receptions and 1,118 receiving yards. He represents the deep threat the Bucs have struggled with most of the season.
-Tampa Bay has played its best football of the season over the past month while going 4-0. Washington seemingly has earned a playoff berth by winning a game of musical chairs in the NFC East. The Buccaneers need to protect the football and execute their game plan to make this contest a lopsided win. Ron Rivera’s hope for snow is his acknowledgment of this fact. Since their loss to the Chiefs, the Buccaneers have played as well as any team in the NFL. I look to see this trend continue against the Washington Football Team.
-Thanks to the Bucs photo sttaff for providing some of the pictures.
-Prediction: Tampa 41 – Washington 19