TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13-year playoff drought officially comes to an end today.

The 11-5 Bucs return to the postseason tonight in Washington on the strength of a Tom Brady-led offense that averaged 27 points per game.

What You Need To Know

  •  NFL Wildcard Playoffs: Tampa Bay (11-5) at Washington (7-9)

  •  Kickoff: 8:15 PM, NBC

  • Tampa Bay, led by QB Tom Brady, making first playoff appearancein 13 years

So…Brady and his six Super Bowl rings versus a 7-9 division winner. Need we say more?

Well, yes.

Washington’s NFC East triumph is nothing to scoff at despite the losing record. A franchise in turmoil because of off-field issues that released the supposed building block at quarterback late in the season has been somewhat revitalized by the work of coach Ron Rivera.

The defense is aggressive and anchored by rookie Chase Young, the second overall pick in the 2020 draft. The starting QB, Alex Smith, has been as inspirational as any NFL player, capping a comeback from a severe injury that almost cost him a leg.

But Brady has shown yet again how overwhelmingly responsible he was for all those championships in New England.

His Buccaneers had not sailed into the postseason since 2007. He has been in his usual January form for a month — rare form, indeed, for a 43-year-old quarterback.

And there’s more.

Brady has more weapons in support on offense than since that same 2007 season with the Patriots.

At any time Bray can rely on receivers Mike Evans (slowed by a knee injury currently), Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Scotty Miller and tight end and former New England teammate Rob  Gronkowski.

The Bucs backfield also has been productive with Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette.

 Tampa Bay’s defense is solid enough and could give Smith more fits than Washington’s impressive rush gives Brady.

“We don’t see them as a 7-9 team,” said Bucs coach Bruce Arians, because of a 5-1 record in quarterback Alex Smith’s starts.

Washington won only one game all season against an opponent that finished with more than six wins

No matter what, though, Rivera won’t be deterred from imagining an ideal outcome.

“Maybe we catch Tampa on a bad day,” he said. “Maybe we catch Brady on a bad day.”

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

TAMPA BAY (11-5) at WASHINGTON (7-9)

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC

OPENING LINE — Buccaneers by 6 1/2

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Buccaneers 9-7; Washington 8-6-2

SERIES RECORD — Washington leads 12-11

LAST MEETING — Washington beat Buccaneers 16-3 on Nov. 11, 2018 at Tampa Bay

LAST WEEK — Buccaneers beat Falcons 44-27; Washington beat Eagles 20-14





STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — The franchises split two previous postseason meetings, with Washington winning the most recent matchup 15 years ago. ... Tampa Bay is in the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 season; Washington hasn’t been to the playoffs since the 2014 season. ... The Bucs earned a wild-card berth, finishing second in the NFC South behind the New Orleans Saints, in QB Tom Brady’s first season in Tampa Bay after playing for the New England Patriots for 20 years. ... The Bucs went a franchise-best 6-2 on the road this season. ... First-year coach Ron Rivera led Washington to the NFC East title despite a 7-9 record, making it the third division champion in NFL history with a losing record. One of the others, the 2014 Carolina Panthers, also was coached by Rivera. ... Brady has appeared in a league-record 41 playoff games, leading the Patriots to six Super Bowl championships. He also ranks first on the career playoff list in wins (30), yards passing (11,388), TD passes (73) and seasons with playoff appearances (18). ... Brady threw for a franchise-record 40 TDs this season and was third in the NFL with 4,633 yards passing. ... The Buccaneers have played 15 playoff games in the franchise’s 45-season history. They haven’t won a postseason game since the team’s 2002 Super Bowl championship run. ... Brady’s long-time teammate in New England and now with the Bucs, Rob Gronkowski holds career playoff records for a tight end with 81 catches, 1,163 yards receiving and 12 TDs.