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Washington-Tampa Bay 'Under' 37 (5 Units)
This is definitely one of those games where I debated all week on a side and after conversation after conversation, fight after fight, talk after talk, I came to the conclusion that I always kept talking about the same thing...how low scoring this game would be. Oddsmakers seems to have overlooked a few things when creating this line and if all goes according to plan, this game stays UNDER and the books get burned. I have a feeling the line is inflated a little bit for the simple reason that Washington's last three games of the regular season were must wins and the game approach was completely different than what it will be for a game like this. The Redskins pretty much know that they are up against a rookie QB in Chris Simms who is making his first ever NFL playoff start. The books seem to have overlooked this as well. I see that quite the large percentage of bettors are on the OVER in this game but they seem to be looking too much into the meeting between these two teams earlier in the season where they combined for 71 points. That is most definitely not happening again today as I don't see either team scoring more than one touchdown in this game. The last time these two met in the playoffs was back in 2000 where the Bucs ended up winning the game by one point (14-13) and both teams played their asses off on the defensive side of things. Both teams are likely to feature their respective running backs in Clinton Portis and Cadillac Williams. Passing the ball is probably not a good idea seeing that both teams are ranked TOP 10 in the NFL in pass defense.
The Washington Redskins are probably one of the league's hottest teams coming into the playoffs but the mental approach is different now and too many of you seem to be overlooking the fact that Tampa Bay has the #1 defense in the NFL allowing only 277.8 total yards per game. Clinton Portis is the key to this game but does anyone know that the seven games he failed to top 100 rushing yards were the games against TOP 10 defenses against the run? I am not convinced that Clinton Portis will get anything done against this Tampa Bay team that is #5 against the run allowing only 94.2 rushing yards per game. QB Mark Brunell has done a great job this season and although he passed for 3000 yards and 23 touchdowns, the Bucs are going to bring big time pressure all game because the offensive line did a much better job protecting Brunell at home than they did on the road where they allowed 2.3 sacks per game away from home. Knowing Gruden and knowing his staff, the key to this game will be #1: Stopping Clinton Portis and #2: Finding the right time to Thunder Blitz Brunell and creat some turnovers. Brunell can be weakened if he is pressured and on passing downs, I am very comfortable knowing that he completes only 57.7% of his passes. CB's Brian Kelly, Rhonde Barber and Will Allen have combined for 12 interceptions this season and Barber has a tendency to step it up big time in games like this.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have to realize that they are sending out a rookie quarterback and that looking for an immediate shootout is definitely the wrong thing to do. Once again, it seems that the books are looking way too much into that game where both teams combined for 71 points in a 36-35 win for the Bucs. This is the playoffs guys and Washington is too strong/focused defensively to allow Tampa to score more than a touchdown. Simms doesn't have WR Mark Clayton to stretch the defense in this game therefore all eyes turn on another rookie by the name of Cadillac Williams. However, the Redskins are just as stout against the run as Tampa Bay and allow only 105.4 total rushing yards per game this season. Simms has thrown for 10 touchdowns but has also thrown for 7 interceptions which really has me concerned going into a game of such magnitude against a defensive coordinator like Greg Williams. I have a feeling the Bucs will struggle badly from the get-go but since their defense will probably keep them in the game for mostpart...they will have a shot at winning this game sometime in the fourth quarter. Cadillac has 10 carries for only 20 yards in the first meeting and although that won't happen here, he will have problems and fumbles could be costly.
In the playoffs, teams often change the way approach games as opposed to playing in game where you need to win to get into the playoffs. Both coaches have big time playoff experience which leads me to believe that both coaches understand that running the ball is key here and engaging a shootout is a big mistake. Even if someone gets off to an early start, the gameplan will most likely not change on either side and keeping this game and boring will be the key winning and covering the spread. On one side you have the old willy QB who just won't go away that is going to be chased around for the better part of this game. On the other side, you have the young QB playing in his first playoff game who will probably be as nervous as it gets. I have bet the UNDER in Washington games this season and got badly burned but if either team breaks the 17 point mark, I will be extremely shocked and will not know what hit me. Go with the UNDER.
Tampa Bay 13, Washington 12