Despite being dealt a painful blow to their playoff hopes last week, this young Buccaneer team still has its collective eyes on the prize of playing the second weekend of January and beyond.
Indeed, the mettle of the young Buccaneers will be tested on Sunday as the team heads to Washington to take on the Redskins in what will be a crucial game for the Bucs’ playoff chances. Following a 28-24 loss that saw the Buccaneers lose a 24-14 lead with ten minutes and change remaining in the 4th quarter, the Bucs returned to the practice field to prepare for the Redskins and maybe take out a little bit of frustration from last Sunday.
Did they respond positively this week? Was their energy level high? I had the opportunity to ask Coach Raheem Morris these questions after his team’s practice wrapped up this week.
“That’s the great part about having a young football team”, Morris said. “There’s no falloff. They know it’s a war of attrition. They’re a bunch of young guys. They’re just happy they didn’t get eliminated from the BCS. Now they’ve got a chance to go out there and win, a chance to go out there and play. We’re just fighting for the playoff race. We’re fighting for that chance to qualify to be among the elite in our league.”
The Redskins enter Sunday’s matchup amid turmoil, both on and off the field. They are coming off a brutal 31-7 whipping on the road to the New York Giants, effectively ending their slim playoff hopes. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs ran for 197 yards and 4 TDs on a Redskin defense that lacked DT Albert Haynesworth, who’s been suspended for the last 4 games of the season by Mike Shanahan for conduct detrimental to the team.
His absence on the field and underwhelming performance on it has been just one factor in the Redskins defense ranking dead last in the NFL in total defense and near the bottom in rushing yards allowed per game at a clip of 137 yards/game. Expect to see a heavy dose of LeGarrette Blount early from the Buccaneer defense, especially if the weather conditions play a factor. Rainy conditions are expected at kickoff with winds around 12 mph.
The injury report has also not been kind to the Redskins. 12 players finished the week on the injury report for Washington, twice as many as the Bucs reported. Out of those players, S LaRon Landry and CB Carlos Rodgers didn’t practice until Friday, both in limited fashion. As such, there’s a very real chance the Washington defense could be down those players as well, which could bode well for Mike Williams, Rejus Benn and Kellen Winslow. S Macho Harris and CB Philip Buchanon would be in line to start if Landry and Rodgers are out.
Kickoff is set for 1:00 pm EST.