Ron Rivera led the Carolina Panthers to the playoffs four times in nine seasons, and he has done the same in his first year at the helm of the Washington Football Team. Widely expected to be the worst team in a weak division, Washington instead emerged as the NFC East champion and will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday in a 2021 NFL wild-card showdown. Kickoff from FedEx Field is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. ET. Despite what appeared to be a massive rebuilding project, Washington (7-9) was the last club standing in the division following a 20-14 road win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17. The Buccaneers (11-5) finished second in the NFC South led by Tom Brady and are headed to the playoffs on a four-game win streak.
William Hill Sportsbook lists Tampa Bay as a 9.5-point favorite, up two points from the opening Buccaneers vs. Washington odds. The over-under for total points is set at 45. Before making any Washington vs. Buccaneers picks, make sure you check out what SportsLine analyst Mike Tierney has to say.
The veteran sportswriter, whose work has appeared in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, has covered football of all levels for decades. He has emerged as one of SportsLine's annual leading analysts in all sports and has had another strong season for SportsLine members as he heads into the postseason on a 23-15 spurt on NFL picks.
Moreover, he has been consistently dialed in on the fortunes of these franchises, posting a 24-9 record on NFL picks against-the-spread in games involving either Tampa Bay or Washington over the past three seasons. Anyone who has consistently followed Tierney is way up.
Now, Tierney has locked in on Buccaneers vs. Washington from every angle and released another confident against the spread pick that you can only see at SportsLine. Here are the NFL odds and trends for Buccaneers vs. Washington:
- Buccaneers vs. Washington point spread: Buccaneers -9.5
- Buccaneers vs. Washington over-under: 45 points
- Buccaneers vs. Washington money line: Buccaneers -440, Washington +360
- TB: Buccaneers have covered in four of their last five games
- WAS: Underdog is 5-0-1 against the spread in the last six meetings in this series
Why the Buccaneers can cover
It took a while for the new-look Buccaneers to mesh after they paired iconic quarterback Tom Brady with coach Bruce Arians. Brady signed as free agent after spending 20 seasons and winning six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots.
Brady had to adjust to Arians' preference for a vertical, explosive passing game, which stood in contrast to the efficient, ball-control attack he mastered at the helm in New England. A steady stream of injuries among the top playmakers didn't help, but the Buccaneers appear to have found their stride just in time. The Bucs averaged 37 points over their final four games while winning by an average margin of 18.3 points.
Brady went 26-of-41 for 399 yards and four touchdowns in a 44-27 win over the Atlanta Falcons to cap the regular season. He was sacked once and intercepted once. Tampa Bay also forced two turnovers to finish fourth in the NFL with a plus-eight turnover differential.
Why Washington can cover
Consistent offense has been difficult to come by for a Washington club that ranks No. 25 in the NFL with an average of 20.9 points per contest. And with Alex Smith (calf) questionable, it could be challenging to move the ball consistently through the air if Taylor Heinicke is under center. But one reliable source of production has come from perhaps an unlikely but effective backfield duo of Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic.
Gibson was a third-round draft pick who starred primarily as a wide receiver and kick returner for Memphis. The Washington brass drafted him because of his versatile skill set and he wound up the opening-day starter. The rookie has proven to be a reliable dual threat who has a knack for finding the end zone. He rushed for 795 yards on 175 attempts while scoring 11 touchdowns. He also caught 36 passes out of the backfield for 247 more yards.
Coincidentally, McKissic has had a similar career trajectory. He was a receiver in college at Arkansas State and signed as an undrafted free agent by the Atlanta Falcons in 2016. The first touch of his NFL career resulted in a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Washington in a preseason game.
He spent three years in Seattle as a utility weapon and appeared in all 16 games last year for the Detroit Lions before signing a two-year deal with Washington. The reliable third-down back has 80 catches for 589 yards and two touchdowns. He also has contributed 365 rushing yards on 85 carries with one touchdown.
How to make Buccaneers vs. Washington picks
Tierney is leaning under the total, but he also said a critical X-factor makes one side of the spread hit hard. You can only get that pick here.
So who wins Washington vs. Buccaneers in the NFL playoffs 2021? And which side of the spread is a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the Washington Football Team vs. Buccaneers spread to jump on, all from the accomplished analyst who is 24-9 on picks involving these teams, and find out.