By Jennifer McGraw, Sports Talk Philly Contributor
The Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) are officially in the NFC Wild Card round! It was a hard season, but they came through at the right time to get into the playoffs. Philadelphia will head to Tampa Bay to face the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4) in the first round of playoffs. The Eagles are coming off of a loss against the Dallas Cowboys (12-5) and the Buccaneers are coming off of a win against the Carolina Panthers.
Date: January 16, 2021
Where: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida
When: 1:00 PM/Eastern
TV: FOX/NFL Network
Radio: 94.1 WIP and the Philadelphia Eagles Radio Network
The Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are tied in the all-time series 10-10-0.
2021: The Eagles had a stretch of games against harder teams earlier in the season, and the Buccaneers did not let up. The Eagles were held to a total of 213 yards. Jalen Hurts was 12-of-26 for 115 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Miles Sanders had nine carries for 56 yards. On the other hand, Tom Brady was 34-for-42 for 297 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Leonard Fournette had 22 carries for 81 yards and two touchdowns.
This Game at a Glance
Both teams are a lot different than when they first met earlier in the season. Lane Johnson and Dallas Goedert were out for the Eagles and Rob Gronkowski was out for the Buccaneers. Jordan Mailata played right tackle coming off of an injury. There were also only nine running back carries in the entire game. Now, both teams have evolved and are coming into this game as different teams. Jalen Hurts will make his first start in an NFL playoff game, as well as being the youngest in franchise history to do so.
There are a lot of exciting matchups to look out for, such as Mike Evans vs Darius Slay. Last time the Eagles and Bucs faced off, Evans only had two carries for 27 yards. The Bucs biggest receiver in that game? Antonio Brown, who is no longer with the team. The Eagles had two rushing touchdowns, both done by Jalen Hurts. Both teams have their strengths and weaknesses heading into this game, so it'll come down to who can manage the clock better and play clean, disciplined, and smart football.
Eagles Win if…
The Eagles have a lot of factors in their favor going into this game, but there's still a lot they need to do to secure a win. Offensively, it'll be best for them to play to their biggest strength this season: running the ball. Because of the predicted weather conditions, it'll be best for them to keep the ball on the ground. Play actions have also been a good play for the Eagles to execute. Keeping a balanced offense will help the Eagles alleviate as much pressure as possible, because the Buccaneers will be bringing the heat. Defensively, it's going to be crucial for the team to get into Tom Brady's head. Aggressive defense will cause turnovers, and keep Brady and his explosive weapons off the field as much as possible.
Buccaneers Win if…
The Buccaneers are a smart team. They know exactly how to play aggressive on both sides of the ball as well as expose their opposing teams' weaknesses. They can get the job done regardless of who they play, and they've already played the Eagles earlier this season. Offensively, Brady is going to need to get the ball out a lot quicker. He's used to playing in the rain, but some of his other targets might not be as accustomed. The offense will have to both manage the clock wisely and make plays fast so the Eagles defense can't be effective. Defensively, the Buccaneers need to contain Hurts' weapons. Devonta Smith and Dallas Goedert both know how to get open, so the defense is going to need to watch those players.
Prediction: Eagles 28-27
I see this being a back and forth scoring match between both teams because the Buccaneers are obviously going to be on fire. This game will come down to whoever plays the better 60 minutes of smart and disciplined football. I believe the Eagles have this game because they have too much on their side to lose this game.