After a tumultuous bye week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are finally headed back to the football field to face Chip Kelly's Philadelphia Eagles. Yes, the same Chip Kelly who said yes to the Bucs...then took a look at Josh Freeman, had some doubts and got a big check from Phil Knight to stick out another season at Oregon.
Has there ever been a team (and coach) more desperate for a win this week?
Let's take a look at the matchups.
Series: Philadelphia leads 7-5
Last Meeting: Philadelphia rallied from an 11 point deficit with 5:57 left to beat the Buccaneers 23-21 on Dec. 9, 2012. The loss effectively ended the Bucs' playoff hopes.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Game vs. Philadelphia Eagles Pass Defense
For Tampa Bay, there was some improvement under rookie QB Mike Glennon. However Glennon still has the penchant for turning the ball over with two interceptions and a fumble (although that one could also go on Doug Martin). The turnovers came in a fourth quarter that saw the Buccaneers blow a 10 point fourth quarter lead.
Overall though, the rookie did fine. He completed 53% of his passes for 193 yds and a nice touchdown toss to Mike Williams.
The good thing for the Bucs is both Williams and Vincent Jackson will back to 100% this week after a much needed bye week. Tampa Bay also dumped unreliable Kevin Ogletree and brought back Tiquan Underwood and Chris Owusu. The Bucs will also add a receiving option at TE with Tom Crabtree who appears ready to return after suffering an ankle injury in the final pre-season game.
Also add Jeff Demps to the mix. The mercurial track star has been working in the slot of the passing game and could give the Bucs offense a decided speed advantage.
They'll be facing an Eagles defense that has absolutely been putrid against the pass this season. Consider this: Philadephia is surrendering 326 yards a game on pass defense. The god awful Bucs pass defense that nearly set the NFL record for worst pass d in history? They gave up 297.4 yds per game. Philly has given up 20 plays of 20+ yds and 4 plays of 40+ yds in just five games. They're also not getting to the quarterback much, registering 11 sacks in 5 games.
In other words folks, even the Bucs godawful passing attack with a rookie quarterback should be able to take advantage of this matchup. In fact, they must if they hope to finally notch win number one.
Advantage: Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Running Game vs. The Philadelphia Eagles Run Defense
Poor Doug Martin. He busted his backside for every single yard he got against the tough Arizona Cardinals defense. Arizona was determined to force Mike Glennon to beat them so they put eight and nine guys in the box and run blitzed ferociously.
They succeeded in holding Martin to 1.7 yards a carry. The Bucs' overrated offensive line, believed to be a team strength, hasn't lived up to its lofty reputation and it took a hit this week with former Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks going down again with the MRSA infection. He'll be out indefinitely as he battles the highly contagious and aggressive staph infection.
The good news for the Bucs is the Eagles can't stop the run, either. While teams primarily choose to attack them in the passing game, the Eagles are surrendering 108.0 yds a game on the ground as well.
The Bucs are ranked 18th rushing averaging 100 yds a game and can fully expect another batch of eight and nine man fronts.
Advantage: Tampa Bay
Philadelphia Eagles Passing Attack vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pass Defense
The Bucs will be facing their stiffest test defensively when the Eagles fast paced high flying offense comes into Raymond James Stadium. Philly boasts the second most productive offense in the league (454.8 yds per game) and a lot of that comes from their passing game.
Michael Vick is nursing a hamstring injury and likely will not be ready for Sunday, so enter Nick Foles, a player who Buc fans know all too well. Foles had the best game of his young career against Tampa Bay's putrid pass defense last season, throwing for 381 yds and 2 touchdowns (including the game winner with seconds left). That game sent the Bucs into a tail spin they still haven't recovered from.
Of course the Eagles have weapons in Desean Jackson and LeSean McCoy but he biggest threat from Kelly's read option is the quarterback run. Foles doesn't have the speed Vick has but he does have some athletic ability and can scramble for 6 or 7 yds.
Tampa Bay's pass defense is vastly improved, rising from 31st to around a respectable 15th. They've been sacking the quarterback (13 in 4 games) and picking off passes (6) while limiting opposing QBs to 6.6 yds per attempt (8th best in the NFL).
Revis - when not exiled into zone - will take on Jackson, who talked a bit of trash this week to the Bucs' all-pro DB.
Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Attack vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Run Defense
Oh those tricky Eagles. The Read Option with Michael Vick has proven nigh unstoppable thus far in this league. The Eagles are number one in the NFL rushing the football with 186 yds rushing per game. LeSean "Shady" McCoy leads the NFL by a wide margin with 514 yds rushing and has 3 touchdowns.
Tampa Bay's run defense isn't as good as their number one ranking last season but is still a top ten defense against the run (9th). In three of their four games they've pretty much contained the opposing running backs.
Add to the factor if Vick is out, Foles isn't the runner Vick is and that should help Tampa Bay key on McCoy.
With that said, the Bucs still need to be gap disciplined and they can't be overly aggressive. Foles could easily pull the ball back away from McCoy and jut out for a quick 5 or 6 yard gain. If the Bucs are in man, it could turn into a bigger gain.
The defensive line and blitzing linebackers must keep containment and make sure they account for the quarterback. A spy on Foles might even be needed if the Eagles begin to exploit the Bucs aggressiveness.
Tampa Bay needs to hit Foles and hit him hard. The way to take the sting out of the read option is to obliterate that QB. If the Bucs can do that (without drawing that pesky personal foul that has hurt them so many times this season), they might be able to slow down the Eagles running game.
Special Teams Battle
Alex Henery is the kicker for the Eagles. The 3rd year vet has made 12 of 15 field goal attempt with a long of 48. All three misses came in the 40-49 yd range so reliable wouldn't be the best word to describe him.
The Eagles punter is veteran Donnie Jones. He's averaging 44.1 yds a punt. The Eagles top return man is Damaris Johnson, who is averaging 8.4 yds a punt return and 26.4 yds a kick return.
Tampa Bay counters with Rian Lindell as the field goal kicker. Lindell has also struggled, with a miss inside 40 yds and another in the 40-49 yd range. On the season, he is 3 for 5 on the season with a long of 50.
Michael Koenen continues to handle the punting duties, he's averaging 43.3 yds a punt.
Jeff Demps took over the kick return duties for Tampa Bay last week. Demps averaged 23.0 yds a return on three attempts. Eric Page handles the punt return duties for the Bucs. He's averaging 8.6 yds a punt return.
By the Numbers
- Philadelphia is +2 in the turnover margin. Tampa Bay is even.
- Philadelphia is ranked 30th in the NFL in Red Zone percentage on Offense. Tampa Bay is 2nd in Red Zone defense.
- Philadelphia's offense averages 27 points per game. Tampa Bay's defense surrenders 17.5 points per game.
- Tampa Bay's offense averages 11 points per game. Philadelphia's defense is surrendering 31 points per game.
- Philadelphia is 2-4 lifetime in Tampa Bay (including the playoffs).
- Before their improbable come from behind victory last season, the Eagles last victory in Tampa was in 2001.
The Buccaneers are coming off a bye week where they had two weeks to prepare for Chip Kelly's dynamic offense and they may have caught a break in Mike Vick being unable to play this week.
That's pretty much where the good news ended for the Bucs. No team needs to get back on the football field and win some games more than Tampa Bay.
The scary truth is Freeman is gone, Nicks is out and the Bucs still have Mike Glennon at quarterback. The players and coaches call talk about how great Glennon has looked in practice but in the immortal words of Allen Iverson, you're talking about practice. Do it in the game, rook.
He'll need to this week. As good as the Bucs defense has played this season they'll be facing an offense that has dominated the NFL. Even against the undefeated Chiefs, where Philly was held to 16 points, they still rung up 431 yds of total offense and rushed for 264.
The Bucs can play lights out this week and still give up 400 yds and 20-something points. So the question then shifts to the offense. Can Mike Glennon and his weapons take advantage of a defense surrendering 31 points a game?
If they can't, we've got a major problem, Tampa Bay.
The Bucs must not turn the ball over. They must not put their defense in precarious positions. They must force a turnover or two from the Eagles and they need to let the Eagle offense get their yardage between the 20's. No big gains for touchdowns, no red zone scores
I think the Bucs offense will score some points this week but it won't be enough to contend with Chip Kelly's high flying offense. Sorry, I have to see it to believe it from Glennon.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Buccaneers 20