Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the team.
The Washington Football Team is back from the bye week and will kick off Week 10 with a home matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Here are three keys to the game, presented by Van Metre.
1. Get unconventional production from running backs.
Washington has good reason to feel confident about its running game. The trio of Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic and Jaret Patterson have fueled a rushing attack that accounts for 118 yards per contest, putting the team at 12th in the league.
The Buccaneers are one of the stingiest defenses in the league when it comes to stopping the run, though. In fact, they rank second with just 78 yard per game. There's a strong possibility yards on the ground will be difficult to acquire. So, Washington will need other ways to use their running backs.
Fortunately, Washington is well-equipped in that area as well. McKissic, who is second on the team with 332 receiving yards on 42 receptions, is also one of the better pass-catching running backs in the league. The only two players in his position who have caught more yards are D'Andre Swift (415) and Cordarrelle Patterson (459).
Gibson and Patterson also have a similar skillset; for example, Gibson has flashed with 17 receptions for 144 yards, more than half of which came on his 73-yard touchdown against the Buffalo Bills. McKissic, however, has been the most consistent, and it wouldn't be surprising if he is more involved against the Buccaneers.
2. Take advantage of scoring opportunities.
Washington had six opportunities to score touchdowns in the red zone in its last two games. It came up empty-handed on all of them.
Finishing drives has been a pain point for the offense in recent weeks. Between the 20s, as Rivera put it, the unit has moved the ball well. It actually out-gained the Green Bay Packers by 126 yards and the Denver Broncos by 69 yards. The problem, however, was that the Packers and Broncos executed when it mattered, combining for four touchdowns on their six trips, while Washington did not.
If there's anything that can be said for certain on Sunday, it's that the Buccaneers are going to put up points. On top of sporting the league's best scoring offense (32.5 points per game), the Buccaneers are seventh in red zone percentage. Over the last three games in particular, they're third with a red zone success rate of 76.9%.
The Washington Football Team continues preparations for its Week 10 matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Karlee Sell/Washington Football Team)
Washington's injuries on offense have played a part in the team's struggles. Logan Thomas is still on Injured Reserve, and receivers like Dyami Brown have also been dealt with their own injuries. The team is expected to have some of those players back against Tampa Bay, though, so it will have a reinforced offense on Sunday. It will need all the help it can get to keep up with Tampa Bay.
3. Put pressure on Tom Brady.
Fans have heard it countless times: any team that wants to contain Tom Brady needs to put pressure on him. It's one of the most obvious statements, and a strategy that arguably the greatest quarterback of all time has worked around numerous times, but the fact remains that it's the best route for success against him.
Washington, which was inconsistent in the first quarter of the season, has been much better in recent games. The team has recorded 10 sacks in the last three contests, five of which came against the Broncos. Jonathan Allen has been the team's best statistical pass-rusher. On top of leading all interior defensive tackles with six sacks, he has the second-highest pass rush grade for his position. Aaron Donald is the only player with a higher grade.
Washington's defensive line took a hit recently, however, with Montez Sweat expected to miss extended time with a jaw injury. That means more attention will be placed on Allen as well as Chase Young. Those players will certainly need to perform at a high level, but it also provides opportunities for James Smith-Williams and Casey Toohill to step up in Sweat's place.
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