Buccaneers vs. Washington Odds & Playoff Picks: How To Bet This Wild Card Spread & Total
Getty Images. Pictured: Tom Brady, Chase Young
Buccaneers vs. Washington Odds
The 4-seeded Washington Football Team host the 5-seeded Tampa Bay Buccaneers to close out Saturday of Wild Card Weekend. With game-time decisions for key offensive players on both sides of this matchup, where’s the betting value?
Find our comprehensive preview below, featuring the following (click a bullet point to skip ahead):
Buccaneers vs. Washington Picks
Our staff details how they’re betting Saturday’s game. Click on a pick type above to skip ahead to that analysis.
Stuckey: We’ve seen only two home underdogs of more than seven points in NFL playoff history. Both teams actually won outright:
- 2010 Seahawks (+10) over Saints
- 2012 Broncos (+7.5) over Steelers
The quarterbacks in those two games were Matt Hasselbeck and Tim Tebow. And for what it’s worth, since 1980, home underdogs in the NFL playoffs have gone 26-14-1 (65%) against the spread (ATS).
So can Alex Smith (or potentially Taylor Heinicke) make it three for three? I’m not willing to go out on that limb, but I did bet Washington +9 earlier in the week and like the Football Team at anything +7.5 or better (shop real-time lines here). Since I make this line around the Bucs 6-point favorites, I gladly took the home dog catching over a touchdown here.
Contrary to some incorrect narratives out there, Tom Brady has been great this season. He’s clearly got plenty left in his arm.
However, for whatever reason, Tampa Bay really struggled against top-tier defenses — especially those that can get pressure, which has always been Brady’s kryptonite.
- The Bucs went 0-4 against defenses ranked in the top 10 of Football Outsiders’ DVOA.
- Brady went 2-2 against defenses that ranked in the top 10 in pressure rate with seven touchdowns to five interceptions and 6.7 yards per attempt. Against all other defenses, he had 33 TDs to seven INTs with a 7.9 yards per attempt average.
Well, Washington ranks in the top three in overall defense DVOA and pressure rate. I believe its defense can keep them in this game. And hey, maybe there’s also something to Brady’s struggles in primetime after what we’ve seen this year.
Anderson: If Tampa Bay protects Brady, it will win this game with ease. It really is that simple.
But, theoretically, what would a winning Washington formula look like?
It’s three or more sacks and repeated pressure from Chase Young and Montez Sweat. It’s pressure that makes Brady look his age with multiple turnovers, maybe a pick-six. It’s Terry McLaurin hurting a beatable secondary on third downs and in the red zone. It’s Brady melting down in potentially his last game ever, the Buccaneers offense disappearing (as it has at times this season), and the Football Team winning 16-13 with a defensive touchdown.
That’s certainly a conceivable scenario. But it’s also the only real scenario Washington has here. Heck, we could even see that play out for two or three quarters, but Tampa is good enough to wake up late and win anyway.
If Washington doesn’t pressure Brady all game, it loses. If Washington doesn’t force multiple turnovers, it loses. Even if Washington’s defense plays well, Tamp’s defense might be just as fierce against an anemic offense.
Washington shouldn’t be here while Tampa Bay is one of the best teams in the league and has dominated bad teams all season — which I detailed in my full game preview. Even if the Football Team keeps things close for much of the game, I trust the Bucs to be aggressive and force big plays and mistakes late to win and cover a high line.
I don’t have any fear of a backdoor cover.
Koerner: Brady has faced the sixth-lowest pressure rate in the league. That could change this week as he goes up against Washington’s front four.
It’s worth pointing out that Brady has ranked 32nd (out of 38 quarterbacks) in success rate when facing pressure this season. And the Football Team’s offense is unlikely to fare much better against a Bucs’ defense that ranks fifth in DVOA.
I expect this to be a low-scoring game and project the total at 43.5, so would bet it down to 44.
Palmer: Oddsmakers have set this game total at 45 for a reason. We just can’t expect a ton of points.
Both teams rank inside the top five of defensive DVOA, expected points added per play and success rate. More importantly, both defenses have top-tier pass rushes. The Buccaneers are fourth in sacks (48), second in pressure rate (27.0%) and fifth in pass rush win rate (49%) while the Football Team is sixth in sacks (47), seventh in press rate (25.4%) and third in pass rush win rate (50%).
The thing is, one of these offenses is capable of scoring.
Brady and the Buccaneers are scoring 30.8 points per game and are third in offensive efficiency. The Football Team, on the other hand, is backed by the shell of Alex Smith, who is essentially a statue in the pocket these days.
If Taylor Heinicke has to start or sees any playing time, he can’t truly be relied upon to put up points against this Buccaneers defense.
The Football Team is dead-last in offensive DVOA and passing efficiency. They’ve scored 18 points per game over the last five weeks, but there were two results skewing that average: In Week 14 against the 49ers, the Football Team got two defensive scores. And in Week 17 against the Eagles (who weren’t trying to win), the Football Team scored 20 points but got two field goals based on an interception and fumble in Eagles territory.
Simply put, if this team isn’t generating turnovers, we can’t reliably expect it to score against any defensive — let alone a top tier one like the Buccaneers.
With Washington’s strength being defense, I’m expecting a low variance game plan filled with a lot of runs to protect Smith or Heinicke. And although I have faith in Washington’s defense doing enough to keep it close, I’m not seeing how the Football Team scores.
The biggest thing keeping me off the full game over is Tampa Bays’ ability to score as it’s likely we see a result similar to the Bucs’ 47-7 blowout of the Lions in Week 16. There’s a real concern for me with the Football Team’s offense struggling so much that their defense can’t get off the field and the Buccaneers do just enough to hit the over themselves.
All that said, I’ll take the Football Team total under down to 17 points.
Bucs-WFT Prop Bet
Terry McLaurin Under 68.5 Rec Yards
Sean Koerner: McLaurin is playing through an ankle injury and will be at less than 100%. Last week, he was able to put up only 40 yards on seven receptions.
The conservative playing style of Alex Smith also robs McLaurin of his big-play ability. Smith tends to target running back J.D. McKissic and tight end Logan Thomas at a higher rate than Washington’s other quarterbacks have, which hurts McLaurin’s value a bit when he’s under center.
Notable Bucs-WFT Injuries
Tommy Stokke: Tom Brady’s first playoff game with Tampa Bay could be without leading receiver Mike Evans, who is a game-time decision according to head coach Bruce Arians. Evans suffered a knee injury in Week 17 and did not return in the blowout win over the Lions.
Meanwhile, Alex Smith’s comeback season might feature an anticlimactic finish if he’s unable to play on Saturday. The Football Team designated Smith as questionable with a calf injury and the quarterback has been unable to practice all week. Head coach Ron Rivera described Smith as “sore.”
If Smith can’t play, Washington will turn to backup Taylor Heinicke. Heinicke played one game this year, replacing then-starter Dwayne Haskins in Week 15 and throwing for 137 yards and a touchdown on 12-of-19 passing against the Panthers.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, there is a “real chance” Heinicke starts.
Most Valuable Bucs-WFT Players
Our Director of Predictive Analytics, Sean Koerner, highlights the five most valuable players for both teams based on how many points they’re worth to the spread.
- Chris Godwin (+0.66), Mike Evans (+0.59) and Antonio Brown (+0.54) make up arguably the most valuable WR trio in the NFL.
- Rookie OT Tristan Wirfs (+0.23) looks to have a bright future ahead of him.
- G Ali Marpet (+0.31) is the glue that holds the offensive line together. When he missed Weeks 11-13, the Bucs went 1-2 against the spread — including an embarrassing 38-3 primetime loss to the Saints.
- CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (-0.25) is a liability on defense. Cornerback is one of the easiest positions for a team to game plan around attacking a specific player. He will have to step up in the playoffs.
- Alex Smith (+1.56) has been an effective game manager. Washington likely goes into every game wanting him to throw for fewer than 200 yards and lean on the defense to get the win.
- Chase Young (+0.52), Jonathan Allen (+0.42), Daron Payne (+0.14) and Montez Sweat (+0.21) form one of the best defensive lines in the game.
- WR Terry McLaurin (+0.70) is one of the most valuable wide receivers in the league, mostly due to the lack of depth behind him.
Bucs-WFT WR/CB Matchups
Wide receiver vs. cornerback matchups might be the most important individual matchups in football. Read senior NFL analyst Matthew Freedman’s breakdown of the expected matchups this Saturday.