The Bucs are 1-0 to start the season and now face the defending world champions in the Philadelphia Eagles.
There were plenty of fireworks as Tampa Bay scored a franchise-high 48 points against the division rival Saints. Ryan Fitzpatrick had the best game of his career and sealed the deal with an impressive run on 3rd-and-11 in the fourth quarter.
But things will be much tougher when the Eagles come to town.
How will the Bucs fare on Sunday? Check out this week’s preview below.
- All-time series record: The Eagles lead the all-time series at 8-6. They had won three in a row until Jameis Winston and the Bucs recorded a franchise record in rushing yards on the way to a 45-17 victory in 2015. Tampa Bay is 2-4 at home and 4-4 on the road.
- Playoff history: Both teams have four times in the playoffs. Three of those four meetings occurred between 2000-2002 with Tampa Bay advancing to its first Super Bowl with a 27-10 victory in the NFC Championship Game in 2002.
- Longest win streak: Each team holds a three-game win streak.
- Largest victory: The Bucs’ 28-point win in 2015 (45-17) was the largest margin of victory.
- 2018 offensive and defensive rankings: Tampa Bay boasts the league’s 2nd ranked offense (3rd passing, 19th rushing) and the 30th ranked defense (2nd rushing, 32nd passing). Philadelphia is tied for the 29th ranked offense (18th rushing, 31st passing) and the 7th ranked defense (6th rushing, t14th passing).
What to watch for:
- The Bucs’ offensive line vs. the Eagles’ defensive line: Tampa Bay’s offensive line was dominant in pass protection last week. How will they do against Fletcher Cox and a deep Eagles’ defensive line?
- Nigel Bradham’s return: Bradham was suspended for one game and his replacements in Corey Graham and Nate Gerry struggled against Atlanta. The Eagles defense just became a lot better.
- The Bucs’ secondary against the deep ball: Nick Foles isn’t the best at throwing deep, but Tampa Bay will most likely be down their top two corners. Mike Wallace made some nice plays for Philadelphia in the preseason - will Sunday be his day to shine?
- Chris Godwin: Godwin is a major mismatch against this defense and with DeSean Jackson likely out, the Bucs will look his way often.
- Doug Pederson vs Mike Smith: Arguably the league’s top offensive scheme against arguably the league’s worst defensive scheme. Need I say more?
- QB Ryan Fitzpatrick: The Bucs will need another big performance from the bearded wonder.
- RB Peyton Barber: He has to stay consistent for all four quarters in order to tire the defense.
- WR Mike Evans: Expect the Eagles to try and cover Evans the best they can. The question is though: can they?
- DT Gerald McCoy: With the possibility of Jason Pierre-Paul out, McCoy needs to step it up.
- DE Vinny Curry: Curry should provide a huge boost on Sunday.
- S Justin Evans: It will be up to him to man the back half of the defensive backfield.
- RB Jay Ajayi/Darren Sproles: The Eagles love to use their running backs all over the field and the Bucs linebackers struggled big time against the Saints.
UPDATE: Darren Sproles has been ruled out due to a hamstring injury
- TE Zach Ertz: Philadelphia’s best receiver will be looking to feast on Tampa Bay’s off-man coverage all day.
- WR Nelson Agholor: One of the league’s quickest receivers should have a big day in the slot.
- DT Fletcher Cox: Just put it this way: Fletcher Cox will eat your soul.
- S Malcolm Jenkins: Since his move to safety/nickel, Jenkins has been one of the best defensive backs in the league.
Tampa Bay’s win over the Saints was huge, but came at a big cost. Not only did the Bucs lose Vernon Hargreaves III for the remainder of the year, but Brent Grimes will most likely miss his second straight game.
DeSean Jackson and Jason Pierre-Paul aren’t out of the woods just yet, either. Both were limited in practice on Thursday, but that doesn’t mean they are a lock to play.
(UPDATE: Both JPP and Jackson were full participants in practice Friday and are expected to play)
The offense doesn’t need to score 48 points again to win, but they need to be able to produce effective, efficient drives at crucial junctures in the game.
The Eagles have one of the best coaching staffs in the league, so it’s easy to understand that the game will not only be won on the field, but on the sideline as well.
This will be Tampa Bay’s toughest challenge to date.