NFL Wild Card Playoffs: Buccaneers-Washington preview, schedule, how to watch

Arun Srinivasan
·Writer

The NFL’s decision to expand its playoff format ahead of the 2020 season has paid dividends for the league, both in terms of revenue and quality of play. The disparity between the league’s elite teams and bottom-feeders has never been wider, and although numerous COVID-19 cases threatened to uproot the season, the NFL trudged through the pandemic into a new and improved 14-team playoff format.

[Watch the NFL Playoffs on DAZN: Get DAZN free for 30 days and stream the game live]

The juggernaut Kansas City Chiefs emerged as the AFC’s top seed, with Patrick Mahomes engineering a star-studded offense that seemingly scores at will, while Aaron Rodgers submitted an MVP-caliber season to lead the Green Bay Packers to the NFC’s No. 1 position. There are now six games in the wild-card round as a result of the expanded playoffs and four games in the divisional round, before the AFC and NFC championships decide which teams will play for Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay.

The Washington Football Team hosts the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game that could end up being closer than many would imagine. Someone had to win the historically dreadful NFC East and Washington emerged with a 7-9 record that belies its overall talent level. Tom Brady’s first season with the Buccaneers had a few bumps along the way but he rebounded to submit arguably his best campaign of the last five seasons, and nobody wants to see the GOAT this winter.

Wild Card Preview: Washington Football Team at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates with wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) after Godwin caught a touchdown pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Monday, Nov. 23, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady made the most out of a loaded receiving core this season, a group that includes Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and Antonio Brown. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

Date: January 9 at 8:15 p.m. ET
How to watch: Live on DAZN

Washington is the reluctant winner of the NFC East, stumbling into the playoffs at 7-9 but it’s a better roster than some would imagine. Antonio Gibson has been a productive lead back with 795 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, while Terry McLaurin caught 87 passes for 1,118 yards and four touchdowns. However, Washington arrives at the playoffs in an awkward position, having released former team captain and quarterback Dwayne Haskins following a series of poor play and several COVID-19 violations. Alex Smith will be the starter going forward, and while he’s a capable game manager, he’s not going to raise the team’s ceiling.

Chase Young (7.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles) is the Defensive Rookie of the Year favourite, leading Washington’s front seven, and if it has any chance to upset Brady and the Bucs, Young, Montez Sweat (9.5. sacks) and Ryan Kerrigan (5.5 sacks) will have to live in their backfield.

Brady’s Buccaneers were among the most intriguing storylines of the season, and the former Patriots great responded with 40 touchdowns against 12 interceptions, making the most out of a loaded receiving corps that includes Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and his former teammate, Rob Gronkowski. Entering the playoffs on a four-game winning streak, the Buccaneers are finally catching up to the sum of their parts and could be the toughest out in the entire NFC. Evans, however, could miss the game after suffering a knee injury in Week 17.

Washington vs. Buccaneers: Tale of the Tape

Category

WAS

TB

Record

7-9

11-5

Head-to-Head

N/A

N/A

Points For (per game)

20.9

30.8

Points Against (per game)

20.6

22.2

Washington will win because

Young and Washington’s pass rush has disrupted quarterbacks all year, as the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft is salivating at the prospect of knocking Brady out of the playoffs. Gibson and J.D. McKissic have been an effective work-share at running back, while McLaurin could roast one of Tampa’s talented but inexperienced cornerbacks. Make all the NFC East jokes you want, but this was the correct winner this year.

Buccaneers will win because

Brady is the most clutch playoff performer in NFL history — perhaps in all of North American sports, and his change of scenery doesn’t affect that. Armed with the most talent he’s had offensively since 2007, Brady has seen it all and can pick apart an inexperienced defense that grew up watching him their entire lives. Tampa Bay is on fire, and Washington doesn’t have a dynamic enough passing game to keep up if the Buccaneers up their pace and dare them into a shootout.

What’s the NFL Playoffs schedule in 2021?

  • Wild Card games: January 9-10

  • Divisional games: January 16-17

  • Conference championships: January 24

  • Super Bowl: February 7

NFL Wild Card Weekend Previews

NFL Wild Card Round Schedule

Saturday January 9

Time (ET)

Matchup

Stream

1:05 p.m.

Colts at Bills

DAZN

4:40 p.m.

Rams at Seahawks

DAZN

8:15 p.m.

Buccaneers at Washington

DAZN

NFL Wild Card Round Schedule

Sunday January 10

Time (ET)

Matchup

Stream

1:05 p.m.

Ravens at Titans

DAZN

4:40 p.m.

Bears at Saints

DAZN

8:15 p.m.

Browns at Steelers

DAZN

NFL Division Round Schedule

Saturday January 16

Time

Matchup

Stream

TBD

TBD

DAZN

TBD

TBD

DAZN

NFL Division Round Schedule

Sunday January 17

Time

Matchup

Stream

TBD

TBD

DAZN

TBD

TBD

DAZN

NFL AFC/NFC Conference Championship Schedule

Sunday January 24

Time

Matchup

Stream

TBD

TBD

DAZN

TBD

TBD

DAZN

NFL Super Bowl 55 Schedule

Sunday February 7

Time

Matchup

Stream

TBD

AFC Champion vs. NFC Champion

DAZN

More NFL Playoffs on Yahoo Sports