The Buccaneers (+5) are on primetime for the first time this season facing off against the defending NFC champions in the Philadelphia Eagles (-5). Both teams are 2-0 and will be looking to keep their perfect seasons going.
To preview the game, we chatted with Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation for more insight on the Eagles.
Question 1: What is the current vibe around this Eagles team? Can they make it back to another Super Bowl this year?
One might assume all is well in Eagles land because the team is undefeated. That’s not the case! People are understandably concerned with Jalen Hurts and the passing offense looking out of rhythm through two games. Being able to run the ball and make plays on defense is obviously nice. At the end of the day, though, this team is going to go as far as Hurts takes them. And he simply needs to be better than he’s been so far for the Eagles to be considered true championship contenders. There’s still plenty of season for them to figure things out. They can absolutely get back to the Super Bowl. But it won’t be easy … it was never going to be. It’s typically never as simple as picking up where you left off from last year. Heck, there hasn’t even been a repeat NFC East winner since 2004. The Eagles are merely trying to accomplish that much before they can get back to the final game of the season.
Question 2: With Avonte Maddox out, how will the Eagles look to replace the productive corner?
Good question. We don’t know for sure. The expectation is that starting outside cornerback James Bradberry will move inside when the Eagles go to nickel packages. They’ll then bring in Josh Jobe to fill Bradberry’s normal spot.
Bradberry doesn’t have an extensive history of playing in the slot. But the Eagles did experiment with using him in that capacity during training camp. Now, it seemed like that usage was more about specific matchups (covering big WR/TE slot dudes) than it was trying to convert Bradberry to a new position. So, I don’t know that they’re really going to use him as their nickel CB on every single snap. It seems like backup slot cornerback Mario Goodrich could also mix in, especially against more prototypical smaller slot receivers.
In general, Eagles defensive coordinator Sean Desai hasn’t been shy when it comes to tinkering with different options. He might try multiple things before sticking with what works best.
Question 3: Both the Eagles and Bucs are working with brand new offensive coordinators. Assess Brian Johnson’s performance as the offensive play caller so far.
The feeling here is that there’s been a disproportionate amount of blame on Johnson for the passing offense struggles. It can be much easier to blame the coaching staff than to admit your favorite player isn’t playing well.
That said, Johnson obviously shares some blame for the Eagles’ passing struggles thus far. Quite simply, the offense hasn’t been in rhythm when Jalen Hurts has had to throw. And that’s pretty unacceptable considering the Eagles have one of the NFL’s best offensive lines and a pretty great trio of pass catchers in A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert. I’m not going to stick my head in the sand and say there are no valid concerns about Johnson. But I’m far from willing to write him off two games into his NFL offensive coordinator career. Johnson needs to do his part to get Hurts in a rhythm. But the quarterback also needs to help himself by not holding onto the ball for forever (currently has the NFL’s longest average time to throw) and not missing throws that are there to be made.
Question 4: In your opinion, which position group matchup is the X factor in this upcoming game?
The Eagles have been able to overcome their flaws in no small part because they’re strong in the trenches. It’ll be especially interesting to see how the Bucs fare when it comes to protecting Baker Mayfield. He’s only been sacked once through two games this year. But the Eagles’ pass rush is much more formidable than what Tampa faced in their first two games. Jalen Carter, already an early DROY candidate, could prove to be very disruptive going up against the Bucs’ interior offensive line. The Eagles’ pressure could force Mayfield into his first turnover of the season; it feels like he could be due to make a mistake after zero interceptions and zero fumbles thus far.
Question 5: According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Eagles are just a 4.5-point favorite on the road against Tampa Bay. How do you see this one shaking out?
I expect this one to be close.
I don’t buy that Mayfield is going to continue to be the player he’s been through the course of this season. But the first two weeks aren’t a fluke in that he has upside to play pretty well. He’ll put up a good fight.
When it comes to the Bucs’ defense, I do have questions about Hurts being able to have success against Todd Bowles. We’ve previously seen him draw up good plans against the Eagles’ quarterback. And I kind of need to actually see the passing game get back on track before I fully believe in it again.
All that said, I believe the Eagles will put forth a good plan of attack coming off the mini-bye. That early break was probably a good opportunity for some early self-scouting. I also believe in Philly’s ability to win in the trenches.
The Eagles pull this one out with a late touchdown, 27 to 23. Win but no cover.
Thanks a ton to Brandon Lee Gowton for doing this!