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Washington vs Tampa Bay Wild Card Week: Five Questions with Bucs Nation

Washington Football Team staff photographer

It’s wildcard weekend and the first 5 Questions I’ve done with another SB Nation site in the playoffs. Exciting! Records don’t matter in the playoffs, so it will simply be a 4th seed Washington Football Team facing a 5th seed Tampa Bay Buccaneers team at home in FedEx Field on Saturday at 8:15 PM EST. Although there won’t be a crowd advantage in an empty home stadium, maybe there will be a slight weather advantage from playing at home, as the Bucs are a warm-weather team and the temperatures should be just a little above freezing for this game.

The Buccaneers have been a disappointing team since their Super Bowl victory in the 2002 season, but this season has not disappointed. The Bucs’ roster has seemed loaded with talent over many years, but they have lacked talent at the most important position (QB) and have never seemed to field a team as good as the sum of its parts. This year is different. With a good head coach in Bruce Arians and possibly the greatest QB of all time in Tom Brady, the Bucs have finally seemed to put together a team capable of dominating on both sides of the ball. Football Outsiders has the Bucs ranked as the 2nd best team in the NFL, behind only the New Orleans Saints in overall DVOA. More specifically, Football Outsiders has the Bucs ranked 3rd on offense, 5th on defense, and 26th on special teams DVOA. This is a team capable of completely dominating and blowing out weaker teams on both sides of the ball.

I asked Gil Arcia of Bucs Nation five questions to better understand the state of the Bucs and what to look for in this game.


1) What do you think of the Bucs coaching staff? Not just Arians, but the coordinators as well.

Overall, I think they have done their job. Todd Bowles has done good things with the defense and his creativity has certainly allowed for the success of the defensive side of the ball. On offense, Byron Leftwich hasn’t been bad, but has had lots of questions in certain situations. Tom Brady has executed plays well. I think what we are seeing this year is an excellent quarterback under center that can run this Bruce Arians offense the way it should be run and putting the team in position to win. Which of course allows for the coaching staff to look good. It’s a win-win situation for the whole organization.

Bruce Arians talking to QB Tom Brady. Arians always builds his offense around a vertical passing attack and helped QBs like Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer develop their deep strike reputation. He has also built a very diverse coaching staff in Tampa Bay, with all African-American coordinators and two female coaches.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

2) What has Tom Brady meant to the team and what kind of teammate is he? How long do you think he’ll keep playing at a high level?

Kind of continuing from the previous answer, Brady just makes everyone better. He has been selfless and has called out his teammates ahead of him and credits the offensive line often, the same line people have been overly critical about. I’m not sure how much longer he plays. But there are talks he wants to play at least two more years.

At 43 years old, Tom Brady finished the 2020 season with 4,633 passing yards, 40 passing touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. He shows no sign of slowing down and is still under contract with the Bucs for next season at a cap hit of $26M.

3) What do you think of Jason Licht as a GM? Were the Bucs right to keep him and let him guide their rebuild after the 2018 season when they fired their 2nd coaching staff under him despite the fact he only had a single winning season as a GM before now?

I’ve never had an issue with Licht. The unfortunate issues have been coaches not playing to players’ strengths. People have blamed Licht for even the coaching. However, there were countless times under the Lovie Smith and Dirk Koetter regimes where stubbornness played a role in the lack of success on the field. The inability to adapt and make adjustments when needed never took place resulting in many, many losses.

Bruce Arians (left) with GM Jason Licht (right). Jason Licht has been GM of the Bucs since 2014 and this is only the 2nd winning season he has presided over since taking the job. He has continually built a roster loaded with high-end talent, but they have lacked a QB and depth in many areas until now.

4) Who are two Bucs players that don’t get talked about enough by the national media, but could have a big impact on this game?

Tight end Cam Brate has really come on as of late. He has always been reliable in this offense but that kind of faded after the addition of Rob Gronkowski of course. In recent weeks, it seems like Brady has been looking for the sure-handed receiving tight end more often. I’ll stay on the offensive side of the ball and say rookie lineman Tristan Wirfs. He’ll certainly be busy going up against the likes of Chase Young and Montez Sweat but he has done a really good job this season in both the run game and pass protection and could have yet another good game and this time on a bigger stage — the playoffs.

RT Tristan Wirfs has been the best rookie OT this year. Considered by many a raw-but-athletic prospect in the draft, Wirfs blew up the Combine and has since earned a PFF grade of 82.2. Don’t be surprised if he shuts down Montez Sweat in this game.

5) How would you gameplan to beat the Bucs on both sides of the ball?

Well, I’d apply as much pressure on Brady as I could. We’ve seen a couple times this season where if the offense is beat often in the passing game they tend to falter. On defense, there is a huge vulnerability in the defensive backfield. If Washington receivers can get into the second to third levels of the defense in their routes consistently, then Washington may be a bigger problem for the Buccaneers than they had hoped.

Sean Murphy-Bunting (26) is a starting boundary CB for the Bucs. Taken in the 2nd round last year, he posted a strong rookie season, but has looked much more vulnerable this year, with a 56.0 (below average) PFF rating and giving up several long plays. Throwing into his coverage could be advantageous in this game.
Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Thanks again to Gil Arcia for taking time out of his day to answer our questions about the Bucs.


Poll

As of right now, Vegas has Tampa Bay as 8.5 point favorites over Washington. How would you bet?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    Tampa Bay wins by more than 8 points
    (278 votes)
  • 34%
    Tampa Bay wins by 8 points or fewer or it’s a tie
    (278 votes)
  • 30%
    Washington wins outright
    (247 votes)
803 votes total Vote Now

Poll

As of now, Vegas has the over/under for this game at 45 points. Which would you bet?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    45 or more total points are scored (both sides combined)
    (138 votes)
  • 71%
    Fewer than 45 total points are scored (both sides combined)
    (343 votes)
481 votes total Vote Now

Poll

If you could take one player (and his contract) from the Bucs and magically transport him to the WFT this offseason, who would it be?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    QB Tom Brady (92.6 PFF grade)
    (214 votes)
  • 20%
    RT Tristan Wirfs (82.2 PFF grade)
    (106 votes)
  • 14%
    WR Mike Evans (74.1 PFF grade)
    (76 votes)
  • 13%
    WR Chris Godwin (79.7 PFF grade)
    (71 votes)
  • 8%
    ILB Lavonte David (81.6 PFF grade)
    (43 votes)
  • 3%
    FS Jordan Whitehead (66.3 PFF grade)
    (18 votes)
528 votes total Vote Now