Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady will make his 42nd career playoff start on Saturday night when the Bucs visit the Washington Football Team in the final Wild-Card game of the day, but it will be Brady's first postseason game NOT in a Patriots uniform. Brady more likely than not will have injured Pro Bowl wideout Mike Evans available. Tampa Bay also should have top cornerback Carlton Davis in the lineup, but excellent young linebacker Devin White is out. The Bucs are 8-point favorites on the William Hill Sportsbook NFL odds.
The Bucs wanted to ensure they got the No. 5 seed in Week 17 and as such Bruce Arians played all his key guys in an effort to win vs. the Falcons. It was nearly very costly as Evans went down with a knee injury in the blowout win over Atlanta. The three-time Pro Bowler did avoid any significant damage. Evans has not fully practiced once this week, but he has played through injuries all year.
Arians said Thursday that Evans "has a chance" to play Saturday and will be a game-time call, officially listed as questionable – most Bucs media types believe there's no chance Evans will miss his first-ever playoff game.
The former Texas A&M star caught 70 passes for 1,006 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, becoming the first player in NFL history with at least 1,000 yards receiving in his first seven seasons. Evans' 13 TD catches are a franchise record, breaking his own record of 12. Evans is the Bucs' career leader in receptions, receiving yards, touchdown catches and 100-yard games.
Davis, a 2018 second-round pick, had his best season with 68 tackles, 18 passes defensed and four interceptions in 14 games – he missed the final two with a groin injury but did practice in a limited basis on Wednesday and Thursday and is also being listed as questionable (again, Bucs media believes he's playing). Before this season, Davis changed his jersey number from 33 to 24 in honor of the late Kobe Bryant. Presumably, Davis would line up opposite Washington No. 1 wideout Terry McLaurin.
The loss of White, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2019 draft from LSU – the first linebacker taken – definitely will hurt. He tested positive for COVID 19 and also missed Week 17. In theory, if the Bucs played Sunday instead of Saturday then White might have been cleared to play via NFL protocols. White led Tampa Bay with 140 tackles and 18 tackles for loss and was second with nine sacks. He was the only player in the league with at least 100 tackles and nine sacks.
Fellow linebacker Shaq Barrett was considered a close contact of White and missed Week 17 because of COVID protocols but will play Saturday after being activated off the COVID list on Wednesday. Needless to say, he must continue to test negative. Barrett led the NFL with 19.5 sacks a year ago in being named a Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro but dropped to eight this season. Barrett was tied for third in the NFL with 41 pressures and he also forced two fumbles in 2020.
This season, Tampa Bay went 1-5 SU vs. eventual playoff teams and 10-0 vs. non-playoff teams. That one victory was a blowout of Green Bay. In his playoff career, Brady is 4-4 SU on the road compared to 20-4 at home. The Bucs may regret this is in primetime as they are 0-4 against the spread in night games this year (1-3 SU).
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