Eagles v. Bucs Week 6 preview: key matchups and official prediction
The Eagles open up Week 6 on Thursday Night Football as they look to move to .500 against the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Philadelphia will be without starting RT Lane Johnson for the 3rd consecutive game as he deals with a personal matter. Tampa Bay will be without three of their starters while Tom Brady is banged up as well. The Eagles will hope to capitalize off their stout defensive performance on Sunday and disrupt the Tampa offense.
Darius Slay shadowing DJ Moore today:— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) October 10, 2021
• 7 targets
• 42 yards allowed
• 2 INTs pic.twitter.com/x0U3YX6gWU
The most significant mismatch on paper will be the Eagles rushing attack v. Tampa’s talented defensive front. The Bucs only allow 45.8 rushing yards per game, which doesn’t bode well for an Eagles team that lacks identity in the backfield.
Miles Sanders continues to be one of the NFL’s most underutilized backs — currently ranked 36th in the league in rushing attempts. This season, Jalen Hurts leads all Eagles’ rushers with 256 yards, not exactly a recipe for success. Yards will be tough to come by on the ground.
The Eagles should be able to utilize their backs as pass-catchers, however. Tampa Bay is second in the league in receptions allowed to running backs, and Myles Gaskin just carved them up through the air last week. Miles Sanders had five catches on Sunday v. Carolina; Philadelphia would be wise to use a similar gameplan against the Bucs, who will be without starting LB Lavonte David.
Another notable matchup goes without saying: QB Jalen Hurts v. an underwhelming Bucs secondary. Injuries have taken their toll on Tampa’s defensive backfield, with cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting and Carlton Davis out of commission as well as safety Antione Winfield Jr. dealing with a concussion.
Tampa did bring in Richard Sherman to help, but the Eagles’ young receivers should find separation. Rookie DeVonta Smith is on pace to be the team’s first 1,000-yard WR since 2014, and second-year speedster Quez Watkins currently leads the NFL in yards per catch at 20.5. There will be big-play opportunities, given Jalen Hurts sees the entire field.
A play that Hurts surely wants back. Quez flies by Donte Jackson and Hurts just doesn’t look his way. pic.twitter.com/B1DJffLxae— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) October 13, 2021
Thursday night’s game is shaping up to be a battle of the trenches. Tampa Bay’s pass rush has gotten to the QB seven times over the last two weeks, whereas Javon Hargrave already has nine QB hits and six sacks for the Eagles through five weeks.
Philadelphia has had to play ten different players across the offensive line due to injuries but have still been playing reasonably well. Hargrave and Cox up against Bucs center Ryan Jensen and left guard Ali Marpet will be an intriguing matchup to keep an eye on.
If the Eagles hope to come away with the win at home, the defense will have to slow down the Bucs on offense, even without Rob Gronkowski. Darius Slay and Steven Nelson had a combined 3 INTs last week and will need to continue to be stingy in coverage against Antonio Brown and Mike Evans.
Avonte Maddox has been stellar in the slot for the Eagles this season, allowing just five receptions for 38 yards on the year. Keeping Chris Godwin in check will be a tall task for him.
Didn’t know Maddox had this type of speed in him. He’s excelling in the slot. pic.twitter.com/XpfLIsQEt0— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) October 14, 2021
Can the Eagles beat Tampa Bay in a shootout? Tough to say. Jalen Hurts and the offense has only put up more than 21 points twice this season, and they lead the NFL in penalties with 50. However, Philadelphia can make it interesting if they don’t continuously shoot themselves in the foot and annoy Tom Brady in the pocket.
Ultimately, I think Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles will prove too much to overcome for first-year head coach Nick Sirianni.
Prediction: Bucs 34, Eagles 24
#NFL leaders — total yards (passing + rushing)— Jeff Kerr (@JeffKerrCBS) October 13, 2021
1. Lamar Jackson — 1,860
2. Tom Brady — 1,803
3. Patrick Mahomes — 1,643
4. Justin Herbert — 1,636
5. Jalen Hurts — 1,621
Pretty elite company #Eagles QB1 is in.#FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/ZhkQ9i3a6e
Mandatory Credit: Icon Sportswire | Getty