Eagles vs Bucs: A Chance Against the Champs
When I began thinking about this match up, the first thought that crossed my mind is that the reigning champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not the same team heading into the playoffs as they were last season. In the 2020 season the Bucs caught fire and went on a roll halfway through the season and continued as the #5 seed winning the title easily against a banged up Chiefs offensive line.
This year, Tampa is not healthy however they've been on a roll as the tournament is just around the corner. While the competiton wasn't exactly fierce, after back to back loses to New Orleans and Washington, the Bucs began playing much better football. They won 7 of their last 8 games but the Falcons, Jets and Panthers aren't top notch competition. But a win is a win.
My second thought was.....can a 9 - 8 team beat the 13 - 4 defending champs?
The Bucs are missing two elite receivers in Chris Godwin who tore his leg up in a loss against the Saints. And now Brady will also be without Antonio Brown who was rightfully released after a fake vaccination covid card and then his childish sideline antics in the middle of the Jets game in week 17. Yes they still have Gronk and Mike Evans but the rest of the skilled positions are a question mark. Brady will need to rely on the run game to open up the play action passes to guys like Breshad Perriman, Tyler Johnson and Scott Miller.
courtesy of Eagles Wire
This could be a problem for Tampa Bay as the Eagles are quietly flying higher in the rankings as they're ranked 9th against the run and 11th against the passing the game. As we know the Eagles have dramatically improved since week 9 when they were once 3 - 5 and finished the season winning six of their last nine games. The Eagles defense has stepped up and they also have the number one rushing offense in the league. But the Bucs have the 3rd ranked rushing defense. Talk about strength vs strength.
Hurts is the biggest reason the Eagles lead the league in rushing as he ran for 740 yards this season. Miles Sanders led the team with 754 yards rushing, just 14 more yards than his quarterback.
The Eagles can win this game if they can figure out a solid passing attack while Jalen Hurts protects the football. Enter head coach Nick Sirianni who will have to come up with a game plan that doesn't abondon what they do best which is run the football. Yet, knowing that the Bucs are a great run stopping team, Sirianni will have to draw up some quick passing plays to guys like tight end Dallas Goedert and receivers DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor. If the Eagles can successfully control the passing game against Tampa's 21st ranked passing defense then the Eagles could fly out of Tampa Bay with an upset victory.
courtesy of NBC Sports
In week 6, these two playoff teams faced off in Philly. The Bucs left Philadelphia with a 28 - 22 victory. Jalen Hurts didn't play particularily well that day throwing for just 115 yards, with a TD, a pick and under 50% completion rate. That's not going to get it done in Tampa Bay on wild card weekend. You can bet the Eagles coaching staff is watching that game over and over trying to figure out what went wrong and how they can take advantage of the Bucs secondary.
Time to pick a winner. So the Bucs are at home. They have Tom Brady and despite losing Godwin and A.B., they still have weapons and a great offensie line to protect the old man. The Eagles need to do two things to win this game. First is successfully pass the football. Secondly is put pressure on Tom Brady. The Eagles will need to blitz and stunt against the Bucs O-Line to create pressure. If the Eagles can't get a good pass rush on Sunday then they can forget about winning the game. Remember, the game is won and lost at the line of scrimmage. I believe the Bucs will have a nice mix of the run and pass and ultimately the defense should take over the game and get a couple of turnovers. Philly may even jump out to an early lead but the in game adjustments will favor the Bucs. The Eagles will put up a good fight so Brady better have the boys ready!
Prediction: Bucs 28 - Eagles 24