The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face just the third team in NFL history to make the playoff with a below .500 win percentage when they take on the 7-9 Washington Football Team on Saturday night.
Bucs coach Bruce Arians doesn’t view Washington as a team with a losing record.
“We don’t see them as a 7-9 team, we see them as a 4-1 team because every time Alex Smith has played, they went 4-1 and had a plus-three turnover margin,” Arians said, via the team’s official website. “It’s a different team when Alex is playing and we know that. We’re playing that 4-1 team, not that 7-9 team.”
Washington officially went 5-1 in games Smith started in 2020, including a Week 14 win over San Francisco when he left the game at halftime. The Team has won the past five games that Smith starts.
With Dwayne Haskins in the starting lineup, Washington went 1-5. It also went 1-3 in Kyle Allen starts.
“We’re not playing Dwayne Haskins. We’re playing Alex Smith,” Arians quipped during an interview with ESPN.
Washington is a more stable offense when Smith is under center, but his injuries sapped his play in the past few games. Ron Rivera’s club is led by a smothering defense that has caused havoc and turnovers in its sprint to the the top of the NFC East. The veteran Smith is the best complement to that defensive unit.
Rivera said this week he could consider rotating Smith and Taylor Heinicke during Saturday’s game if the veteran’s calf injury bothers him.
As the coach of an 11-win team overwhelmingly expected to beat its opponent, Arians knows he has to keep his club focused. Pointing out Washington’s record with Smith at the helm is a clear call to his players not to take their opponent lightly Saturday night.
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