The Buccaneers are back, baby!
Tampa Bay is well-rested thanks to its Week 9 break, but so is the Washington Football Team. This game should get interesting considering both teams had an extra week to prepare for this matchup.
Speaking of matchups: There are plenty to observe in this game, but which three should you watch closely come Sunday?
3. WR Terry McLaurin vs. CB Jamel Dean
The Bucs don't really shadow their corners unless Carlton Davis III is in the game, which sets up this showdown between one of the league's better receivers and one of the up-and-coming corners.
Dean plays mostly on the right side of the defense and while McLaurin moves around, he has logged 50% of his snaps out wide on the left side of the offense. Out of all the Bucs defensive backs, Dean will see McLaurin the most.
Which is a good thing because Dean has been on fire the last few weeks and has been playing at the level of the top corners in the NFL. He'll definitely be tested this week with McLaurin, but it also a represents a chance to pad his resume.
And the same goes for McLaurin, who has had a solid year despite Washington's overall deficiencies on offense.
This battle will go a long way in determining how well the Washington offense moves the ball up and down the field. McLaurin had six receptions for 75-yards during the Wild Card game last year, so I'm sure Dean and the Bucs want to limit his production this time around.
2. G Ali Marpet vs. DL Jonathan Allen
This matchup pits one of the league's best interior offensive linemen against one of the league's best interior defensive linemen.
Allen's primary strength is well, his strength. The dude can toss any guard or center around like they're JV kids. Watch Allen below (No. 93) as he pushes Joe Thuney -who is one of the better guards in the NFL- into the backfield and moves Patrick Mahomes off his spot, which forces the incompletion.
But don't get it twisted. Allen isn't all about strength. He has the athleticism, quickness, and enough pass rush moves to get around blockers, as well. It's a big part of why he has 6.0 sacks and 8.0 tackles for loss so far.
He's lined up on center Lucas Patrick's (No. 62) outside shoulder on this play and uses his quickness to beat him across his face to get the sack:
This time Allen uses a cross chop/swim move to beat Jon Runyan (No. 76) for his second sack of the game:
Per Pro Football Focus, Allen has the fourth-most pressures and sacks, and the most quarterback hits among interior defensive linemen with at least 345 snaps played on the year. He has more pressures than Cameron Jordan, T.J. Watt, Brian Bruns, and Joey Bosa. Out of that group, only Watt has more sacks than Allen.
Fortunately, the Bucs have Marpet, who was the catalyst behind shutting Allen down during the Wild Card game last year. Marpet's blend of strength, athleticism, and technique are the perfect antidote for the defensive poison that is Allen.
PFF has Marpet at eighth in pass blocking efficiency and he's one of just six guards to not allow a quarterback hit among guards with at least 545 blocking snaps on the year.
The trenches are always an area to watch, but this matchup makes them a must-watch this week.
1. Bucs receivers vs. the Football Team secondary
To put it mildly: Washington's pass defense is not good.
Per Sports Info Solutions, the Football Team's secondary allows the most yards per game (300.3) and the fourth-highest EPA/play (0.18) in the NFL. The unit has allowed the second-most touchdowns (20) through nine weeks and quarterbacks average a 107.7 rating when playing this unit. Only the Jets, Jaguars, and Dolphins fare worse in that regard.
To make matters worse, Washington has been flagged for the sixth-most defensive pass interference penalties (7) on defense so far this year. Tampa Bay has drawn the seventh-most DPIs on offense (6).
Washington's defensive backs better have their heads on straight for this game, otherwise the Bucs receivers -even without Antonio Brown- are going to eat them alive.
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