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Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Washington Football Team Prediction and Preview

Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady and the Buccaneers take on Washington at FedEx Field in a rematch of last season's NFC Wild Card Game

It's a rematch from last year's playoffs as Washington hosts Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon. The Buccaneers went into FedEx Field last year and beat Washington 31-23 in the Wild Card Round on their way to winning the Super Bowl. The game was a coming-out party for current WFT signal-caller Taylor Heinicke, who went 26-of-44 for 306 yards and added another 46 yards on the ground in the loss. But it wasn't enough, as Tom Brady threw for 381 yards in the victory.

Tampa Bay is coming off its bye week as the Bucs sit 6-2 atop the NFC South. They lost 36-27 in New Orleans on Halloween despite Brady throwing for 375 yards. The biggest issues were a run game that managed just 71 yards on 14 carries and a defense that gave up 361 yards and 26 first downs to the quarterback combination of Jameis Winston and Trevor Siemian. Both of Tampa's losses this season have come on the road, as they also fell to the Rams in Los Angeles back on Sept. 26.

Washington (2-6) also is coming off its bye, which was much needed. WFT has lost four in a row, with the last one coming in Denver 17-10. The offense struggled to get anything going, and the leading receiver was the third-down back J.D. McKissic. The team has scored 20 or fewer points in three straight games while the defense continues to have problems making stops at key moments of the game.

Tampa Bay (6-2) at Washington (2-6)

Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 14 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Tampa Bay -9.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Intangibles
Coming out of the bye and having lost their previous game, focus should not be an issue for the Buccaneers. I imagine Brady did not let his teammates forget that and take it easy during the time off. The game after this one is a Monday night home date with the Giants. (Side note: Why do we have to watch the Giants again on "Monday Night Football?") However, what could be a concern is the health of Brady's pass catchers. Rob Gronkowski (back) and Antonio Brown (ankle) will both miss Sunday's game and Chris Godwin is officially questionable with a foot injury. Godwin is Tampa Bay's leading receiver at this point with 50 catches for 660 yards (and four touchdowns), so if he's unable to go or is limited that will mean more targets for Mike Evans and others like fellow receiver Tyler Johnson, running back Giovani Bernard, and tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate.

Meanwhile, Washington should be a bit revitalized and hopefully healthier after the bye. The team needs running back Antonio Gibson, who has been battling a shin injury, to be 100 percent but he remains limited in practice. Guard Brandon Scherff continues to deal with a knee injury while fellow offensive lineman Sam Cosmi is questionable because of an ankle injury, so is wide receiver Dyami Brown (knee). Fellow wideout Curtis Samuel will miss another game because of a groin injury. The other thing the bye afforded the team was an opportunity to get away for a bit and reset in hopes of putting together another late-season run, like Washington did last season winning five of the last seven games to claim the NFC East.

2. Remember your past
As mentioned earlier, last season's playoff matchup put Heinicke on the map as a potential QB option for Washington. He's at his best when he's playing a little bit reckless in terms of using his legs and playing with no fear. Since taking over for an injured Ryan Fitzpatrick, Heinicke has had several solid games, but there are other contests where he plays scared and throws awful interceptions. Tampa Bay's defense has dealt with a lot of injuries, especially to the secondary, and the last time got torched by the Saints, who had to use two quarterbacks. If we get the Heinicke from last year, Washington has a shot, but if not, it could be bad.

3. Washington's defense
Before the season began, many ranked Washington's defense in the top five and some even had them higher than that. Chase Young, Montez Sweat, and Jonathan Allen up front were supposed to terrorize all of the offenses in the league. Fast-forward to Week 10, where those three have a combined 11.5 sacks with only 1.5 of them coming from Young. Sweat will miss Sunday's game because of a jaw injury. Four of Washington's eight opponents have scored 30 points or more, and Tampa figures to potentially be the fifth. The team's linebackers are mediocre and the heralded signing of cornerback William Jackson III has been pretty bad as well. Even with the Buccaneers not at full strength on offense, Brady has more than enough weapons and a sturdy enough offensive line that could make things tough on WFT's defense yet again.

Final Analysis

I would not want to be the team that plays Tampa off a bye week after a loss. Brady continues his fantastic season as he torches the Washington defense for three touchdown passes. Heinicke will show some flashes of brilliance, but it won't be enough in the playoff rematch.

Prediction: Buccaneers 31, Washington 20

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— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.