The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will probably beat Washington in Saturday’s Wild Card matchup. But are they the right NFL pick as 9.5-point faves?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Washington Football Team
Saturday, January 9th, 2021 – 8:15 P.M. ET at FedExField
“History never repeats,” the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tell themselves each time they go to sleep. On the one hand, the Buccaneers (11-5 SU, 9-7 ATS) are in very good shape for Saturday’s Wild Card matchup with the Washington Football Team (7-9 SU, 9-7 ATS), laying 9.5 points on the NFL odds board. On the other hand, Washington can become the third team in a row to reach the Divisional Round with a losing record.
No, really. Back in 2010-11, the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West after going 7-9, then they beat the New Orleans Saints 41-36 as 9.5-point home faves – that was the “Beast Quake” game. Four years later, the 7-8-1 Carolina Panthers did it again when they took the NFC South and hosted the Arizona Cardinals on Wild Card Weekend, although the ‘Cats were 5.5-point faves when they won 27-16. This is the history Tampa Bay have to overcome on Saturday.
Fighting From Underneath
Okay, in reality, those two results will have no impact on this week’s results, but they’re also big red flags for anyone who assumes the Washington Football Team is drawing dead. We recently discussed how the Team brings betting value to the field with their solid defense, and with QB Alex Smith taking over under center. Alas, they went with Dwayne Haskins in Week 15 against the Seattle Seahawks, but Washington was still the right NFL pick, in the end, losing 20-15 as 6-point puppies.
No need to worry about Haskins this time – he got released after their Week 16 loss to Carolina. But how much of Smith will we see this Saturday? He ended up missing two starts with a strained calf; head coach Ron Rivera says he might use both Smith and Taylor Heinicke against the Bucs, and if that’s the case, yeesh. FiveThirtyEight grades Smith (106 Elo) about four points better than Heinicke (8 Elo), small sample size notwithstanding.
I Can Manage
Washington would be an easy choice if we knew Smith was under center for the duration. FiveThirty only project Tampa Bay to win by six points; Jeff Sagarin has the Bucs ahead by 7.31 points (Rating) and 6.56 points (eigenvector). Taking the Team at more than a converted touchdown? In a game with a low-ish total of 45 points at YouWager? On what should be a clear and cold January night in Landover? Yes, please.
Unfortunately, we can only recommend a small bet in this case. Heinicke may be capable of managing Rivera’s system somewhat, but Smith is one of the best game-managers there’s ever been. Not quite as good as Tom Brady, of course, but good enough to get Washington the cover if he takes enough snaps. Let’s fire a fun-sized bet at the Team and see if he does – and while we’re at it, let’s wait until closer to kick-off for a better price. You know which side the public will be on this weekend.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.