During the regular season, Tampa Bay had the fourth-quickest average time to snap in neutral situations, and were third in situations where they led by seven or more points.
Washington ranked 14th in situation-neutral time to snap, but played faster when trailing, having the ninth-quickest time to snap in situations where they trailed by seven or more points.
Tampa Bay locked up the first Wild Card spot in the NFC, giving them the advantage of a first-round matchup with the worst team in the playoffs by record. Washington finished the season just 7-9, but that was enough to win the lowly NFC East, and they’ll get to host a playoff game for their trouble. They are, of course, huge home dogs.
Rather than determining whether the Bucs can cover more than a touchdown on the road against a pretty strong Washington defense, I’m looking at the total. Tampa Bay likes to play fast and throw a lot, and they don’t slow down even when ahead. We might see the Bucs turn into a bit more of a running team in the postseason — particularly against a Washington defense that ranked third in success rate against the pass over the past six weeks but just 17th against the run — but I still expect the up-tempo style to carry over. But Tampa Bay’s passing game has been rolling, and I don’t expect they’ll completely abandon throwing the ball, nor would I think a tough defensive matchup will totally shut them down. Over the past six weeks, they’ve ranked fourth in passing success rate and they lead the league in explosive pass play rate.
Washington, meanwhile, has played with plenty of pace in their own right, especially when trailing. They will also face a defense that has been much more beatable through the ground game of late, and I suspect they’ll try to establish the run early against a Bucs defense ranking 28th in success rate against the run over the past six weeks. That expectation that both teams might keep it on the ground for decent stretches of this game seems to be driving the total down, but we’re now below 45 points. Yes, both teams boast strong defenses, but the pace of these offenses is being overlooked here, and more plays are always a good thing for points being scored.
I expect Tampa to play aggressively early, and the spread dictates they could jump out to an early lead. If they do turn things over to Ronald Jones and the ground game, they can find success there, too. And if Washington trails as expected, they’ll at least play fast. There’s also been some talk from Washington coach Ron Rivera that we could see Taylor Heinicke shuffling in for Alex Smith, which I would expect to be more likely if things get out of hand.
Heinicke at least provides the type of mobility in a backup quarterback that can help a trailing team score some late points. Heinicke got two late drives in Washington’s Week 16 loss to Carolina, and the first stalled out on a failed fourth down after getting as deep as Carolina’s 5-yard line, while the second ended in a touchdown. In some ways, that quarterback shuffle discussion is good for the over — if Smith is effective, we’re fine, and if he struggles, we know they’ll be willing to mix it up. I’m liking the over here in the second-lowest-totaled game of Wild Card weekend.
NFL Expert Picks
1u - Over 44.5 @ -108
NFL Free Picks
Playoff football is finally here after a season which looked like it might not happen at one point. This expanded playoff structure has given us some exciting games. Saturday's Wild Card Round games see Colts @ Bills, in which Josh Allen will look to underline his MVP credentials. Rams @ Seahawks gives us a divisional clash and Bucs @ Washington sees the rookie Chase Young trying to rush the GOAT, Tom Brady. Sunday gives us another three fun games. The Ravens travel to Tennessee to face the Titans in a game between two of the best rushing attacks in the league. The Bears enter New Orleans as outsiders, then the Browns face the Steelers in another divisional game, and a rematch of their week 17 tie.
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