The Buccaneers (+2.5) play host to the Eagles (-2.5) in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. The Bucs went 9-8 in the regular season while the Eagles have faltered down the stretch to finish 11-6. These two teams met earlier this year back in week three where the result was a 25-11 Philadelphia victory.
Both teams are much different than they were back in September. To touch on that and preview this matchup, we sat down with Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation to give us a closer look at the Eagles.
1. On November 27th, the Eagles were 10-1 and in contention for the one seed in the NFC. They are now 11-6 and have to go on the road for a playoff game after not winning their division. The question is simple. What has happened to Philly over the past 2 months?
The Eagles were worse than their record indicated at 10-1. They ranked lower in DVOA and point differential than most one-loss teams typically do. They were due for some regression.
That’s the simplest explanation, though it doesn’t tell the whole story. The Eagles made an unconscionable decision to demote defensive coordinator Sean Desai and turn to Matt Patricia to save their season after Week 14. With that change, Philly’s defense went from bad to hopeless.
On offense, the coaching staff just hasn’t done a good enough job of maximizing their talent. And Jalen Hurts hasn’t consistently been the elite quarterback the team needs him to be to overcome defensive deficiencies.
The Eagles’ vibes just haven’t been very good this year. They were described as “the most miserable 10-1 team ever” by an internal source. The vibes have been even worse recently. Whatever the opposite of immaculate vibes is, that’s what the Eagles have going on. It’s looked like this team is ready for this season to be over.
2. Nick Sirianni and his coaching staff have come under fire as of late. OC Brian Johnson and DC(s?) Sean Dessai and Matt Patricia have not been immune to criticism either. What is your take on the coaching staff and the job they have done this season?
I’m feeling pretty out on Sirianni.
I know he’s won a lot. I know the Eagles were in the Super Bowl last year.
But I think it’s become clear that their success has been more talent-driven than coaching-driven. And I say this as someone who’s been very critical of Eagles GM Howie Roseman in the past.
I struggle to see what Sirianni is bringing to the table. I fail to find how he’s giving his team an edge. There are three main categories I focus on:
1 - Scheme. The Eagles’ offensive numbers aren’t terrible … but they could probably be even better given their talent advantage. At a very basic level, good coaching is about doing more with less. And the Eagles are doing less with more. It’s hard to call their offense imaginative or innovative. People love to blame Johnson as the play-caller but he doesn’t exactly have an awesome menu to pick from.
2 - Game management. The Eagles aren’t aggressive as they could be. They’ve made an infuriating habit of running the ball or throwing well short of the sticks on long to-go situations. Sirianni should be especially sharp in this department since he delegates play-calling and has more bandwidth to focus on it. But it’s just not the case.
3 - Vibes. In the past, it seemed like Sirianni fostered a good culture. That’s not the case right now. The Eagles have done a terrible job responding to adversity this season and that’s very alarming.
All told, this team is clearly not a well-coached group.
3. When looking at this matchup, what is the number one thing that Tampa Bay should look to do to win this football game?
If I’m the Bucs, I’m looking to test the Eagles’ run defense. Philly was allowing just 66.3 rushing yards per game in their nine games before their bye. In the eight games since then, they’ve allowed 145.1 per game. I know Tampa hasn’t exactly been great at running the ball but they might be able to have success in this spot. And after watching a hampered Baker Mayfield miss throws in Week 18, I’m not keen on relying on his arm.
The Bucs should also look to blitz the crap out of the Eagles since Philly’s coaching staff apparently has no idea how to counter that at the moment.
4. What is the X-Factor matchup that you are going to be keeping an eye out for during this game?
The last time these two teams played, the Eagles put up 201 rushing yards. That’s the most the Bucs have allowed all season. D’Andre Swift had a big game and I think the Eagles will need another one from him here. He should be ready to handle a big workload after resting in Week 18. Relying on the run game will obviously limit the amount of times Hurts has to throw while dealing with an injured finger. It can also help the Eagles hide their leaky defense by going on time-consuming drives.
5. According to DraftKings, the Eagles are a road favorite at -2.5. Do you think this line is fair and what is your score prediction in this Wild Card game?
At first glance, the line looks pretty insane. The Eagles are 1-5 in their last six while the Bucs are 5-1. The Eagles will be without A.J. Brown. The Eagles might also be without Reed Blankenship, leaving them with one healthy safety on the active roster.
That being said, I’m not really sold on the Bucs being good. I watched that Week 18 game against the Panthers and came away pretty unimpressed. If Mayfield was healthy, I’d feel much better about Tampa’s chances.
I think the Eagles win this game. Not because I trust them … because I don’t. But I also don’t trust the Bucs. And I think the Eagles are going to draw their season out and lose next week to make things more frustrating instead of just having it more mercifully end on Monday night.
Eagles 17, Bucs 16.
Thanks much to Brandon for doing this!