The Buccaneers are back in primetime for the first-ever Super Wildcard Weekend as they travel up to Washington to take on the Football Team at 8:15 p.m. ET. It will be a first for many players as they make their playoff debut but for others, it couldn't be more familiar.
Take a look at a few players to watch this weekend.
1. ILB Lavonte David
Usually, we end with David but after waiting nine years for this, he deserves the top spot. David is the longest-tenured Buccaneer on the roster and despite playing out of his mind season after season, he has yet to play January football in the postseason.
David will be leading the defense into Washington after amassing 117 combined tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception in the 2020 regular season. With inside linebacker Devin White still on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, it will be up to David and inside linebacker Kevin Minter to patrol the middle against the winners of the NFC East. The Football Team boasts not one but two running backs that are former receivers, making David's quick reaction time and speed ever more valuable when defending them. Washington also has former Buccaneer Peyton Barber in its backfield, who David is already familiar with.
2. DL Will Gholston
Another player who has been waiting patiently for his playoff opportunity is Gholston, who behind David is the second-longest tenured Buccaneer, accruing seven seasons with the team. He will also be instrumental in defending the run as one of the best run stoppers for Tampa Bay.
But his duties don't stop there. Gholston has been part of a defensive line that has gotten more pressure from the interior this year. He matched his single-season high in sacks with 3.0 alongside Ndamukong Suh who had 6.0 sacks on the year – his most since 2015. Getting pressure from inside will help defensive bookends Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett hopefully get free to disrupt whichever quarterback Washington decides to put under center. Alex Smith is currently questionable with a calf injury and if he can't go, the reins will be given to Taylor Heinicke. Whoever it is, disrupting their game, taking away the run and hopefully capitalizing on mistakes will be paramount for this defense and Gholston can play a crucial role in his first playoff game ever.
3. WR Mike Evans
I guess I'm just a sucker for firsts. This too will be the first playoff game for Evans, who is officially listed as questionable for Saturday's game. Evans suffered a hyperextended knee in last Sunday's regular season finale against the Falcons just moments after he eclipsed 1,000 yards on the season, thereby setting the NFL record for most 1,000-yard seasons to begin a career with seven. Evans' injury deflated the entire stadium as many feared the worst but an MRI would later reveal no structural damage and Evans practiced for the first time on Thursday.
Head Coach Bruce Arians said he thought Evans' would "have a chance" to play in Washington but given the injuries Evans has already fought through in 2020, I'd be shocked if he doesn't take the field for the primetime playoff matchup. Then again, you don't want to overwork him either, so seeing how much utilization Evans will get will be something to keep an eye on.
4. QB Tom Brady
Well, this isn't Brady's first postseason rodeo – not by a long shot. The veteran quarterback in fact holds the record for number of playoff games started with an incredible 41 under his belt. His 30 playoff wins also rank first, as do his 18 seasons with a playoff game. Though this is a first in some ways. Not only is he donning a different uniform in January for the first time in his career – it's also the first time he will enter the postseason as a Wild Card, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Brady won't have the homefield advantage he's used to but in five career games against Washington he's 4-1 with a 101.7 passer rating. He's thrown for 1,599 yards and 13 touchdowns in those games.
Brady has thrown 73 touchdown passes in the playoffs, an NFL record. He leads all NFL players in playoff passing yards with 11,388 all-time. And if you add his playoff passing yards to his regular season career total – you get a whopping 90, 592 yards, which is also an NFL record.
5. OLB Jason Pierre-Paul
Not only has JPP played in four playoff games himself (including the Super Bowl which he won with the Giants), as a former member of the NFC East, he is acutely familiar with the Bucs' first-round opponent. And they are familiar with him, too.
In 13 career games against Washington, Pierre-Paul has 66 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 16 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles. His best game against the Football Team in Washington came in Week 14 of 2014, where he registered 2.5 sacks, seven combined tackles, two tackles for loss, five quarterback hits and a forced fumble.
He has never faced Washington in the playoffs before, so let's see how he does this time against his former division foe.
View some of the top photos from Buccaneers Wild Card Week practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.