WILD CARD FEVER: Eagles vs. Bucs preview, odds and official prediction
First-year head coach Nick Sirianni and the surging Eagles have a date with the GOAT in the Wild Card as they travel to Tampa Bay.
At 23 years of age, Jalen Hurts will be the youngest QB in Eagles history to start a playoff game. With opposing QB Tom Brady at 44-years-old, this matchup will have the largest age disparity between two starting quarterbacks in NFL history.
These two teams met in Week 6 of the regular season, with the Bucs coming out on top 28-22. However, their respective identities are much different than they were three months ago.
The Eagles established themselves as a dominant rushing offense behind the dual-threat ability of Jalen Hurts, while Tampa Bay will be without Chis Godwin and Antonio Brown — who combined for 136 yards in their first matchup.
RB Giovani Bernard and LB Lavonte David were activated off IR for the Bucs today, while RB Leonard Fournette is officially ruled OUT. Philly is relatively healthy rolling into Wild Card Weekend, with only DE Josh Sweat (illness) and G Nate Herbig (ankle) ruled questionable.
RB Miles Sanders is a full-go after breaking his hand just three weeks ago.
Even at full strength, this is a tough matchup for the Eagles. Their #1 league-leading rushing attack will be up against Tampa Bay’s third-ranked rushing defense, which allows just 92.5 yards per game. With the weather forecast calling for excessive rainfall and wind speeds, both teams will rely more on the run game.
While that certainly bodes well for Hurts and his playmaking, it could force the Eagles to become too one-dimensional on offense. If Todd Bowles and his defense shut down the run, it’ll be up to Hurts to beat them with his arm.
Other than DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia will likely need another receiver to step up to win this game. They will have TE Dallas Goedert this time around, who missed the Week 6 matchup due to COVID-19. Goedert has emerged as a top target for Hurts since the team traded Zach Ertz in October, averaging over 60 yards per game.
On the other side of the ball, Jonathan Gannon has to worry about disrupting Tom Brady. Ranked 28th in sacks this season; Cox, Hargrave, and that defensive front will have to generate some sort of pressure to make Brady uncomfortable.
In their regular-season matchup, Darius Slay did a good job containing Mike Evans, limiting him to just two catches for 27 yards. Evans led Bucs in touchdowns this year; the Eagles will be counting on Slay to keep him in check again tomorrow.
Tight ends OJ Howard and Cameron Brate combined for nine receptions and 75 yards in Week 6. It’s anyone’s guess who will be covering this group with Rob Gronkowski in the mix.
|Philadelphia Eagles||+8.5 (-110)||+300||O 46|
|Tampa Bay Bucs||-8.5 (-110)||-400||U 46|
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The Eagles are playing with house money in this game after starting the year 2-5, and those teams are often the most dangerous. Jalen Hurts will look to turn heads in his first playoff game and honestly, being in this position has already made the season a success.
Looking at this game objectively, Brady has a ton of playoff experience and will probably make a play or two late to move on to the divisional round.
Prediction: Bucs 26, Eagles 21
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