The Washington Football Team has won the NFC East for the first time since 2015, but its NFL postseason berth has come with plenty of controversy.
This past week, three NFC East teams entered NFL Week 17 alive and vying for a championship in the NFL’s worst division.
After the New York Giants edged by the Dallas Cowboys 23-19 earlier in the day, they needed Washington to lose to the Philadelphia Eagles. If Philly pulled off the upset, the Giants would win the three-way tiebreaker, leapfrog Washington, and win the division.
Instead, the Eagles laid an egg, lost by a score of 20-14, and received countless accusations that they tanked on purpose to improve their NFL Draft spot:
— Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) January 4, 2021
Monday’s Washington Post subhead says it all: “This team is going to the postseason. How it got there really doesn’t matter.”
Flightless Eagles Help WFT to NFL Postseason
The Washington Football Team’s NFL playoff berth didn’t sit well with some folks. And many of them can be found on the NY Giants roster.
Let’s be clear: Washington didn’t look like a Super Bowl contender against Philadelphia during its Sunday Night Football matchup. Not even with nearly a dozen Eagles starters on the bench. Not even after the Eagles inserted a third-string quarterback into the game. Quite simply: Washington barely beat a team that looked like it was trying to lose.
The Eagles were the only team entering Sunday without a chance to win the NFC East. Did they simply roll over and tank to improve their order in the NFL Draft?
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was adamant his team was out to win. However, the Giants, who watched helplessly as their only shot to make the playoffs evaporated, weren’t buying it. Sunday Night Football commentators Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels also struggled to bite their tongue:
Tank Eagles Tank pic.twitter.com/xmR62467sh
— CJ Fogler (@cjzer0) January 4, 2021
As for Washington? Don’t expect an apology from head coach Ron Rivera:
“Apparently, that’s what everybody wants me to do, is apologize for winning. I’m not going to, because you play the game as it’s set up. Nobody complained when Pittsburgh did what they did last night against Cleveland. I mean, come on, this is just the way it is. We got in the playoffs. We’re 7-9. I’ve been 7-8-1 in the playoffs. I was on an 8-8 team that was in the playoffs. And you don’t apologize for getting into the playoffs. You apologize for losing in the playoffs, or at least I believe you do. But you don’t apologize for getting in.”
Washington vs. Tampa Bay Spread, Moneyline and Total
With a 7-9 overall record and a 4-2 division record, Washington enters the NFL postseason and wild card weekend as a No. 4 seed. The WFT plays the No. 5 seed, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5), who earned a wild-card spot to make the postseason.
Tampa Bay opened as a 7.5-point favorite for Saturday’s game (8:15 p.m. ET, NBC). However, early bettors had pushed the spread to 8 points by Monday afternoon.
On the moneyline, Tampa Bay was a 4-1 favorite (-400), and the comeback on Washington was +335.
The total, meanwhile, opened at 46.5. However, it was bet down to 45.5 by Monday.
The Bucs looked sharp in Sunday’s 42-27 rout of the Atlanta Falcons. QB vet Tom Brady (399 yards, 4 TDs) and wide receiver Antonio Brown (138 yards, 2 TDs) were both in vintage form with their new team. However, the Washington defense allows just 304.6 yards per game (second-best in the NFL). That will present a challenge for TB, especially if top receiver Mike Evans‘ knee injury forces him out of the game.
WFT QB Alex Smith will be back under center for the playoff push. The position has been a source of turmoil in Washington, but Smith’s feel-good comeback season faces a stiff test. So, too, do Antonio Gibson and the rest of Washington’s ground game, which faces the Bucs’ stingy rushing defense.
As with all NFL games in this pandemic-riddled season, keep an eye on the odds. They could swing wildly based on injury and COVID-related lineup changes throughout the week.