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Eagles vs. Bucs Week 3 Preview: Key matchups, storylines and official prediction

The Eagles look to remain unbeaten as they face Baker Mayfield and the 2-0 Buccaneers.

Mayfield has newfound life in Tampa Bay, playing essentially mistake-free football and starting the year with an impressive 104.4 passer rating.

Philadelphia comes in as five-point favorites and are relatively healthy entering Week 3 sans Quez Watkins and Boston Scott. Starters James Bradberry, Reed Blankenship, and Kenneth Gainwell return to the Eagles lineup after missing last week’s game vs. Minnesota.

Here are three key matchups to keep an eye on:

Chris Godwin vs. Philly’s depleted slot

Darius Slay will primarily defend Mike Evans, who’s been on a tear to start the year. Coming off a 171-yard performance vs. Chicago, Evans has seen a team-high 18 targets, averaging 19.8 yards per catch.

The Eagles lost starting slot corner Avonte Maddox to a torn pectoral muscle, knocking him out for the season. CB Zech McPearson, who assumed backup nickel duties in training camp, tore his Achilles in the preseason. Philly is turning to James Bradberry to man slot tonight against Chris Godwin.

Godwin is the Bucs’ best slot weapon, amassing ten catches on 14 targets for 109 yards. The Eagles have given up four touchdowns out of the slot through two games; they’ll need all hands on deck to keep Godwin in check tonight.

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Baker Mayfield vs. Eagles defensive front

Tampa’s offense has yet to turn the ball over this season, and Mayfield leads the NFL in 3rd-down completion percentage at 87%. The Eagles need to make him uncomfortable and luckily, they have the personnel to do it.

No. 9 overall pick Jalen Carter is PFF’s top-graded rookie through two weeks, trailing only Aiden Hutchinson and Cameron Jordan for most pressure in the NFL. His fellow ex-Bulldog teammate, Jordan Davis, is becoming a stout pass-rusher himself, tallying 1.5 sacks — tied for the team lead with Josh Sweat.

Tampa’s offense is gaining 5.0 yards per play, ranked 23rd in the NFL. If the Eagles front can generate pressure, Mayfield will make a mistake sooner or later.

Eagles offense vs. Todd Bowles

Philadelphia’s offense has been disjointed to start the year, and pass protection is partially at fault. Hurts has been sacked seven times on 11.1% of his dropbacks this season, seventh-highest in the league. Bucs DC Todd Bowles, who has blitzed opposing QBs on 37.8% of their dropbacks, will undoubtedly bring the heat.

All eyes were on Jalen Hurts and AJ Brown last week as frustrations appeared to surface during a sideline conversation. Both parties downplayed the flare-up afterward, stating that “emotions ran high.” Brown ended the game with just four catches for 29 yards.

The Eagles put up 259 rushing yards on Minnesota, but Bowles’ defense is giving up just 3.3 yards per rush with 350-pound Vita Vea in the middle. Tampa is susceptible to the pass, giving up 150 yards to Justin Jefferson in Week 1 and 104 yards to DJ Moore in Week 2.

If there was ever a time for an AJ Brown bounce-back game, today would be the day.

Philadelphia Eagles-5.5-225O 44.5
New England Patriots+5.5+185U 44.5
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook

Jalen Hurts is 0-2 against Tampa Bay in his career, and he has extra motivation to get his first win after what they said about him during the 2022 NFC Wildcard matchup.

Baker Mayfield’s redemption has been a fun story, but Hurts and co. should take care of business on the primetime stage.

Official Prediction: Eagles 27, Bucs 21

Best Bet: AJ Brown anytime TD +135

Mandatory Credit: Getty Images

Victor Williams is the host/producer of The Philly Pod on iHeartRadio and leads all Eagles coverage as co-founder of The Liberty Line.

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