The Philadelphia Eagles (4-5) are set to continue their 2015 NFL season schedule on Sunday with a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5). This game features two underwhelming teams trying to get to .500 and keep their season alive.
Today we're going to look at why a Buccaneers writer thinks the Eagles might win this game. This format forces us to consider each team's weaknesses, rather than just think of why each team is awesome.
So here's why Tampa Bay will lose, AS WRITTEN BY Buccaneers writer Sander Philipse. Check out Bucs Nation to see reasons why I think the Eagles could lose.
Why The Buccaneers Will Lose
The Bucs offense has been very up-and-down this year, with last week representing close to a low point despite the win. Scoring just ten points and producing two turnovers, with a third called back for defensive holding, Tampa Bay still managed to drive down the field consistently only to stall in the red zone. Scoring in the red zone has been the Bucs' Achilles heel all season long. The Eagles haven't been particularly good at shutting out opponents in the red zone, but they don't need to be to limit the Bucs to field goals.
The other aspect the Eagles will need to capitalize is Jameis Winston's inaccuracy and risky throws. Winston's been relatively careful with the football this year, especially over the past five weeks, but he snapped his four-game turnover-free streak with two interceptions last week -- and he could have thrown more than that. Winston's generally smart with the football and accurate enough, but there are a couple of throws in every game that a defense can get a hand on -- turn those into interceptions, and the Eagles should be on their way to a victory. Given that the Eagles are ranked as one of the top defenses in the NFL by every advanced measure, and they rank fifth in defensive interceptions, that should not be a big problem.
The Bucs were terrible on defense to start the season, but they've gotten better in recent weeks since moving Sterling Moore and Jude Adjei-Barimah into the lineup as the team's starting cornerbacks. With a truly dominant run defense, ranked fourth by Football Outsiders, running the ball is not the key to success against this defense, nor is trying to hit them with the deep ball: the Bucs have given up just seven receptions of 25 yards or more.
Instead, the Eagles are going to have to do something that their offense is actually very well-equipped to handle: use quick passes to consistently drive down the field, with play-action opening up the middle of the field for Zach Ertz. The Bucs don't have the pass-rush to disrupt short passes, and their scheme will allow short passes by design, hoping to capitalize on the inevitable mistakes quarterbacks make on long drives. But the Bucs have been awful at capitalizing on those mistakes, and have struggled to stop teams in the red zone as well. If the Eagles can play it safe and not get greedy, they should have a lot of success.
The Bucs have committed 88 penalties this season, more than any team except the Buffalo Bills. They've had big plays called back, some of the stupidest personal foul penalties in the league (though not quite as bad as poking someone's eyes out) and have lost close games almost entirely because they kept drawing flags. If there's an x-factor that can stop the Bucs, it's the referees.