We are now at the business end of the 2020-21 NFL season. Just eight teams remain ahead of this weekend’s play-offs, and whilst all eyes will be on the Kansas City Chiefs, who are gaining a lot of traction in the bet exchange, as they take on the Cleveland Browns at Arrowhead Stadium, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will also be back in play-off action for the first time in over a decade.
The Buccs’ loyal fanbase have waited a lengthy 13 years for their side to reach this stage of the competition, only the Browns’ support have waited longer (18 years) in the entirety of the NFL, so it has been a long time coming for the Florida-based side.
It was a comfortable win against the Lions in Detroit that booked their place in the play-off rounds, and a sensational victory against a dogged Washington side in the Wild Card round booked Bruce Arians’ men a place in the NFC Divisional Round, where they will face the very difficult task of the New Orleans Saints away at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
As he has been so often this season, Tom Brady was instrumental in that victory over the NFC East champions Washington. The Quarterback threw a huge 381 yards, including two touchdown passes, in the wild card game, and you have to be impressed with the Buccs ability to rack up 31 points against a side who boost one of the best defences this season. In fact, only the Browns have put more points past Washington throughout the course of this season.
Of course, the Saints pose an entirely different threat. They are fancied just behind the Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers in the current Super Bowl LV winners’ odds, whilst the likes Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Cam Jordan and Marshon Lattimore make them a very dangerous opponent.
Brees vs Brady is undoubtedly the talking point of the matchup. Two Quarterbacks still flourishing in their 40s, and either could be the deciding factor in which side progresses to the next round of the play-offs.
Tampa’s defence will have to be prepared for the sharp, quick passes that Brees possesses. In the last round, the Saints edged past the Chicago Bears in a low-scoring 21-9 win. In that game, Brees opted for short, fast passes, with 28 of 39 his throws not even gaining the Saints 10 yards at time.
Wideout Deonte Harris also poses a threat for the Buccs. He made his much-anticipated return against the Bears, and with seven successful catches and 83 yards gained, it was an influential performance from the 23-year-old.
Of course, the Buccs will also give the Saints something to worry about. The likes of Brady, Rob Gronkowski, who are both no strangers to this stage of the competition, Mike Evans and Antonio Brown are all players the Saints will be focusing on in the build up to the game.
Wideout Evans enjoyed six catches for 119 yards against Washington, whilst Brown, who also joined from the New England Patriots, continued his good form, with his fifth touchdown in his last four games.
Worryingly for Tampa, however, is the fact that they lost both of their regular season games against the Saints. They were beaten 34-23 at home back in September before suffering a hefty 38-3 defeat back in November.
That doesn’t exactly make Tampa’s chances of victory this Sunday look very promising. But if their defence can keep Brees quiet, whilst their offence take their chances, you can’t rule out the Buccs progressing to the NFC Championship Game, and maybe even onto the Super Bowl, which will of course take place on home soil – the Raymond James Stadium.