So it turns out I'm going to have some time anyway...
This is a game the Eagles have no business losing. The bottom line is that the Bucs are a team that just got it's first win last week, has a beat up secondary, and are starting a rookie at QB. That said, they did just beat everyone's popular superbowl pick the Cincinatti Bengals.
On the injury front, Eagles LT William Thomas who we were all given the impression was unlikely to play will start. It was expected that if Thomas did not start that LJ Smith would have been held in to help Winston Justice. With Thomas in the lineup, LJ should be free to exploit matchup problems against the Bucs linebackers and depleted secondary. Westbrook will start, Hood is still out, and while Stallworth did practice and is a game time decision I still get the feeling he won't play. Both he and the team have spoken so much about not bringing him back too soon and how coming back too soon for the Green Bay game set him back... I just don't get the impression that they will risk it against the Bucs. In all honestly, they just don't need him today...
Defensively, both teams are allowing just over 20 points a game. The once feared Bucs defense is a shadow of it's former self, but then again so is the Eagles D so far... The real disparity between these teams is on the offensive side of the ball. The bucs are scoring just 12 points a game, while the Eagles are averaging just about 30. The Bucs' pass defense has also had trouble creating turnovers. They have only one INT this year compared to 8 by the Eagles. The Bucs are -5 in the turnover dept, while the Eagles are +4.
We all know about the near life threatening injury to the Bucs starting QB, Chris Simms, earlier this year which will keep him out for the year. Losing your starting QB can always be devastating to an offense, but the other playmakers that stepped up for the Bucs last year as they won the division, have not done so this year. 2nd year RB Carnell "Cadlliac" Williams, rushed for nearly 1,200 yards last year but is pace pace for under a thousand so far this year. Much of that can be attributed to the team's patchwork offensive line. They've been plauged by inconsistent play, injuries, and have resorted to starting multiple rookies. Given that offensive line, the lack of a consisent running game, and a rookie QB I think it's more likely that we'll see the Eagles defensive line that racked up 7 sacks against Dallas rather than the unit that got none against the Saints last week. The wildcard here in my opinion is John Gruden. He has been able to exploit Jim Johnson's blitzing defense by utlizing 3 step drops and the short passing game. The question is whether he has the personell to do that effectively. The Saints used that philsophy and it worked, the Packers also used it but it was not effective
- Bucs are 7-0 when RB Cadillac Williams has more than 20 carries & the team is is 6-1 when he rushes for 100+ yards. The Eagles are 18-5 when Brian Westbrook has 100 scrimmage yards.
- Bucs DE Simeon Rice has 13.0 sacks in past 10 vs. Eagles, recording sack in 8 games & 2.0+ sacks in 4 of those 10.
- Eagles S Brian Dawkins leads the NFL in interceptions by a player with their current team with 29. Bucs CB Ronde Barber is second in that category with 28.
- This is the 14th time the teams have met with the Eagles leading the series 7-6. However, the Bucs have won the last 2 games including that killer 27-10 loss in the NFCCG...
In the end, the Eagles pass rush should overwhelm the rookie QB Gradkowski and the Eagles offense should be far too much for the Bucs to handle.
Eagles 31, Bucs 17.