Super Wild-Card Weekend kicks off on Saturday, and closing the first night of 2020 playoff action is a battle between maybe the two most overlooked teams in the NFC field. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter the postseason with four straight wins, including two consecutive 40-point performances, and boast arguably the greatest quarterback of all time in Tom Brady; yet have widely been undersold as a title contender since a mid-season slide. Washington Football Team, meanwhile, backed into a division title at 7-9, punching their ticket to the playoffs thanks in part to their rival Eagles making a controversial Week 17 QB switch.
Does that mean Saturday's showdown is devoid of drama? Absolutely not. Some of Brady's most shocking postseason defeats, you may recall, have come against none other than NFC East teams. And Washington, by virtue of "winning" the NFC East, still gets the benefit of home-field advantage in this one, hoping its Ron Rivera-led defense will be able to serve as the spoiler of the opening round.
Wondering how to tune in? Or whether the Buccaneers actually deserve to be more than touchdown favorites? Find everything you need to know below, including broadcast info, key matchups and a game-day prediction:
How to watch
When the Buccaneers have the ball
Tampa Bay can't be afraid to run the ball, because the last thing they should be doing is letting Tom Brady sit back in empty pockets needing to throw, especially late in the game. That's where guys like Chase Young can legitimately wreck your whole night. But that doesn't mean the Bucs shouldn't air it out. In fact, if one thing tops the priority list Saturday, it should be assaulting Washington through the air. It's just a matter of not completely abandoning the ground game and handling the aerial attack smartly.
By smartly, we mostly mean a willingness to take the short stuff -- an ability to accept what Washington is giving you and let the play-makers do their jobs. Brady tends to like this kind of game plan anyway, making quick, sometimes predetermined decisions that allow the offense to look robotic rather than reactionary. But against Rivera's feisty front, that strategy could prove especially important. Whether it's Mike Evans or Chris Godwin or Antonio Brown, these guys should get the ball quickly. Because you can definitely beat Washington by taking those six- and seven-yard bites every drive.
By staying disciplined and efficient, the Bucs will naturally open up at least a few opportunities for downfield shots, too. So long as Washington has to ensure it's on top of those AB screens or the occasional Leonard Fournette bulldozing, Brady will get his chances to send one deep and really put Washington away.
When Washington has the ball
Honestly, no matter how Washington plays this, it's going to be a tough night, at least on offense. Rivera's defense may very well make this closer than some expect, but there's no getting around the fact that Alex Smith and Co. have been consistently uninspiring. Smith deserves all the credit in the world for his comeback, but the numbers don't lie: He's been a bad QB. Safer than Dwayne Haskins? No doubt. But try asking him to throw a pass that isn't horizontal or within 15 yards for consecutive drives, and there's a decent chance you're going to run into trouble.
Luckily for Washington, the Bucs are more vulnerable through the air than against the run, where they've surrendered the fewest ground yardage of any team in the NFL. So, if ever Smith were going to break out as a passer rather than a preserver of the football, this would be the time to do it. Guys like Logan Thomas and Terry McLaurin help make that possible. But Scott Turner probably needs to get pretty creative to maximize the team's impact throughout the night, regardless of whether Washington intends to play spoiler in a low-scoring game or somehow believes it can go toe to toe in a shootout.
This isn't meant to disparage Washington. Anything can happen in the playoffs. But the reality is, they are no match for Tampa Bay on paper. Their offense's chief responsibility on Saturday, quite frankly, is to hold the ball as long as possible and hope for a break or two. If they can do that, and their defense shows up as it often has, they just might be able to pull off a stunner.
The Bucs have mostly beaten up on bad teams this year and fumbled their chance at true stardom against the best of the best. Washington also has exactly the kind of pass rush that could disrupt Brady early and often. But as much as a tight game is in play, it'd be irresponsible to forecast Alex Smith and WFT's weapons topping Bruce Arians' squad here. Even on an off night, this Bucs offense has enough firepower to get the job done. Washington, remember, struggled mightily to beat the Eagles' backups with a division title on the line. It's going to take a near-perfect performance for them to shut down Tampa.
Pick: Buccaneers 28, Washington 16