The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to clinch the second seed last Sunday 41-17. In doing so they will the Philadelphia Eagles this Sundayat 1pm eastern. The Eagles, who yet to beat a team with a winning record, were probably the easiest matchup the Bucs could have hoped for.
These two teams played earlier in the year in week six, with the Buccaneers winning 28-22. The score of that game is a little deceiving. Bruce Arians and company beat the Eagles at their own game by controlling the clock and dominating on third down. While out gaining the Eagles by nearly 200 yards the Buccaneers also had a 2/1 time of possession advantage. The Buccaneers were in full control the entire game.
The team was without key players, Lavonte David, Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy Bunting, Antoine Winfield Jr and Rob Gronkowski. This game features new problems with a depleted receiving core and a banged up roster.
Buccaneers Receiving Weapons vs Eagles Pass Defense
To say this Buccaneers receiving core is a weakened is an understatement. Coming into the year they were noted as the most explosive core in the league. Now, they are a shell of that missing two of their three pro bowl caliber receivers. This shifts the offensive mindset away from the aggressive Bruce Arians offense to a more conservative, methodical approach. That bodes well for a team like the Eagles, who will let you take everything underneath.
Their defense is predicated on making a quarterback make 10-12 correct throwing reads on any given drive. That doesn’t work with Tom Brady who can go an entire game without making a bad decision. The Buccaneers won’t need stellar receiver play to win this game. They just need to take what the defense gives them and play mistake-free football.
Elite Eagles Run Offense vs Buccaneers Run Defense
The Eagles offensive success is entirely if they can establish the run. They run the ball 52% of offensive snaps and win the line of scrimmage. They are a heavy zone running team and their personnel match that perfectly. Their offensive line are excellent run blockers and open up holes for Miles Sanders and Jalen Hurts.
Another dimension of the Eagles offense is Hurts ability to tuck the ball and run. Jalen Hurts has taken off and scrambled 50 times this year for an impressive 416 yards. Whether it’s a designed run or a scramble on a pass play, Jalen Hurts is a threat with his feet. This could prove to be an issue for the Bucs defense. The Buccaneers run defense has been on the decline as of late. The last three games the Buccaneers have given up over 4.5 yards per carry. They hit a low when the Jets ran all over them. There is no doubt this will be the battle of the game. It’s going to be interesting to see if the Buccaneers defense gets back to dominant form.
The QB Matchup
There is no doubt when it comes to NFL football, having the better quarterback is the easiest way to win a game. The Buccaneers have been on the right side of that all year. If the Buccaneers are able to take away the run game and force the Eagles to play one dimensional, it will be a long day for young QB Jalen Hurts. In week six, when these two teams played, Jalen Hurts completed less than 50% of his passes and threw an interception in a struggling performance versus a depleted Bucs secondary. With the Buccaneers secondary looking healthy and Zach Ertz, who was the team’s leading receiver in week 6, getting traded, it’s tough to imagine Jalen Hurts outsourcing Brady. For the other side, Brady has this offense playing efficiently and there is no sign of stopping.
No matter what playoff game the Buccaneers are headed into, there is always reinsurance because the Buccaneers have the goat. This game is a favorable matchup that honestly shouldn’t be much of a challenge for the reigning Super Bowl champions. I predict a 24-10 victory, with Leonard Fournette having 120 and two touchdowns on the ground.