The NFL didn’t do Tampa Bay any favors by scheduling the team’s first-round wild card game for Saturday night, January 9. The game will be played at 8:15 p.m. ET and will be televised by NBC. The Bucs will travel to the nation’s capital to play Washington, the winner of the NFC East division, which finished with a 7-9 record.
The Bucs haven’t fared well in prime time games this year, going 1-3 in nationally televised night games, losing at home to the Rams and Saints, and on the road against the Bears. Tampa Bay’s lone prime time win came at New York against the Giants on Monday Night Football.
Obviously with Tom Brady’s national appeal and popularity the NFL wanted to give the Bucs the biggest televised audience possible, which is why they are playing on Saturday night.
Perhaps more importantly, Tampa Bay likely won’t get inside linebacker Devin White back for the first round of the playoffs, as the NFL mandates a 10-day quarantine period for a positive COVID-19 test. White tested positive on Thursday and missed Sunday’s 44-27 win against Atlanta. Had the Bucs been slotted for a Sunday playoff game White could have been eligible to return.
Playing on Saturday as opposed to Sunday also gives Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans, who suffered a hyper-extended knee injury against the Falcons, one day less to heal and recover. The Bucs are cautiously optimistic that Evans might be available for Saturday’s wild card game and have not ruled him out.
Here is the full NFL playoff schedule for the wild card round:
Saturday, January 9 – Wild Card Round
Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills – 1:05 p.m. ET – CBS
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks – 4:40 p.m. ET – Fox
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Football Team – 8:15 p.m. ET – NBC
Sunday, January 10 – Wild Card Round
Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans 1:05 p.m. ET ABC / ESPN
Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints 4:40 p.m. ET – CBS / Nick /Amazon Prime Video
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers – 8:15 p.m. ET – NBC