After a 13 season playoff drought, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have secured the 5th seed in the NFC playoff picture. Their first matchup will take place on Saturday, January 9th at 8:15 PM against the Washington Football Team. Washington has been carried by their stout defense throughout the season, especially their defensive line. The matchup I will be focusing on is Comeback Player of the Year candidate Smith going up against the young Tampa Bay secondary.
Alex Smith’s 2020 Statistics
– Games: 8
– Completion %: 66.7
– Yards: 1582
– Touchdowns: 6
– Interceptions: 8
Smith did not light up the stat sheet in his limited number of games played this season. He only started six of these eight games, and in those six starts, The Football Team’s record was 5-1.
Smith is known for not turning the ball over much, and aside from his three-interception loss as a starter in Week 9 against the Giants, he stayed true to being an excellent decision-maker.
Buccaneers Secondary Statistics
– Games Played: 16
– Passing Yards Allowed: 3945
– Passing TDs Allowed: 29
– Interceptions: 12
– Team Turnover Ratio: +8
The Buccaneers secondary is without a doubt the weakest unit on the defensive side of the ball. Tampa Bay has completely shut down the run the last two seasons. Their linebacker group is arguably the best in the league. This is not to say there is no talent amongst the group.
Carlton Davis looked like a Pro Bowl corner in nearly every game he played this season. Although he did struggle against the Chiefs and Panthers. Antoine Winfield Jr. has shown phenomenal talent and potential in his Rookie campaign. Jordan Whitehead is a very good safety against the run but has struggled against the pass. Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting have been somewhat disappointing this season, and have not improved as much as hoped compared to last season.
With that being said, Murphy-Bunting did make a big game-sealing play against the Falcons in Week 17, where he forced and recovered a fumble. Hopefully, he can build off of that momentum heading into the playoffs.
The Game Plan
If Tampa Bay can get pressure on Smith and eliminate his dump-off option in Gibson, Smith will be forced to either throw the ball away or push a risky throw.
Davis will need to have a good game against Smith’s best receiving target Terry McLaurin, who had over 1000 yards receiving in 2020. Washington has not seen a receiver truly establish himself as the Wide Receiver #2 yet, however, tight end Logan Thomas has established himself as a strong receiving option that Smith loves to target. Antoine Winfield and Lavonte David will need to take him out of the picture and force a young Washington receiver to step up.
If the Buccaneers can hold Washington under 17-20 points, I see them advancing to the next round of the playoffs.