The NFC East Champion Washington Football Team will host Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a Wild Card Playoff matchup on Saturday night. Brady with his six Super Bowls titles, nine Super Bowl Appearances, and 41 playoff starts, will be the story to everyone who is not in Washington. Brady has more playoff experience than the entire Washington roster combined technically but Washington’s last playoff win was against the Bucs in 2006. Most places has Washington as a seven point underdog in this game. Here are my three keys for Washington to pull the upset.
1. Put Brady on his Butt
Tom Brady has had one weakness over his illustrious career and that is pressure, and more importantly interior pressure. Much will be talked about with Chase Young and his ” I want Tom” statements, but it is imperative that the rest of the defensive line assist their leader. With Young and probably Montez Sweat receiving the most attention, Da’Ron Payne and Jonathan Allen must get pressure up the middle. Also when blitzing, Jon Bostic and the rest of the linebackers must disguise their pressure to confuse Brady. In the Bucs five losses: twice to the Saints, the Bears, the Rams, and the Chiefs; they all got Brady off of his launch points with interior pressure. This is a requirement for the defense if they want to pull the upset.
2. Viable Offense, No Matter the QB
Alex Smith is the emotional leader of this team, period. The team is just more confident when Smith is under center, that’s undeniable. However if Smith is not able to move, and there by run the offense, then him playing is more of a detriment to the team than a positive. This is a tough decision but going with Taylor Heinicke has to be the move. As of this morning the team is still waiting to see how Smith’s calf is, which means it isn’t at a playable level. I think you give Smith the start and one series to see how it looks, and if he looks like the second half in Philadelphia last week, then Heinicke needs to play it out. What you lose in knowledge you gain in mobility and play making. Heinicke at 100% is better than Smith at 30% and that is just where it is.
3. Possess the Ball
You know an 100% guaranteed way to not have Tom Brady beat you, have him sitting on the sideline. To accomplish this Washington needs to have long sustained drives which won’t be easy as Tampa’s defense is number 1 rated against the run. Tampa’s defense is 21st rated against the pass however and can be attacked at the second and third levels. So it is imperative that Scott Turner calls a game that stresses the Tampa linebackers in coverage and keep them from doing their best thing, playing downhill. If Washington can win the time of possession battle they should be in good shape.
In my preseason prediction I had Washington going 8-8 and missing the playoffs. Washington ended up going 7-9 but they won their division. No one out side of the Washington fan base is giving the team a chance to win. However Washington is built as a team that Brady does not play well against, strong defense with powerful pass rushers. This game will play out one of two ways: The Bucs jump out to a big lead and Washington is not able to be competitive, or Washington makes the game messy and ugly and it comes down the last possession. I think the story was great and something is building here in Washington, however I think the 2020 season will come to an end. Tampa Bay 27 Washington 21