Philadelphia Eagles versus Tampa Bay Buccaneers game day is here. The Birds are playing home at Lincoln Financial Field for the second straight week. The Eagles are coming off an awful loss where they blew a big lead to the Miami Dolphins last week. But for as bad as that defeat was, the Eagles can actually still move into first place in the NFC East if they beat the Buccaneers and Washington loses to the undefeated Carolina Panthers.
Mark Sanchez will start at quarterback for the Eagles now that Sam Bradford has been ruled out with a concussion and a shoulder injury. Sanchez moved the ball well in Bradford's absence last week but he also threw a costly interception in the red zone. In fairness to Sanchez, he had two good touchdown throws canceled out due to mistakes from Miles Austin and Riley Cooper. It's not ideal to ask a backup quarterback to throw three touchdown passes on one drive.
It will be interesting to see how the offense looks with Sanchez at the helm. It seemed like the Eagles were turning a corner offensively prior to stalling against Miami last week. Maybe things will pick up with Sanchez. Or maybe he'll be even worse than Bradford. Who knows.
Tampa Bay's defense isn't exactly a juggernaut. The Buccaneers' pass defense ranks 24th on Football Outsiders. They're vulnerable over the middle of the field, which is good news for Sanchez since he likes to operate inside the numbers. Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz could find success. It might be more challenging to run the ball, however. Lovie Smith's defense ranks No. 4 overall at stopping the rush. The bad news is the Eagles will have to rely on mostly DeMarco Murray with Ryan Mathews being ruled out.
The Buccaneers' offense is led by Eagles fan Jameis Winston. There's no doubt Winston is eager to beat his favorite childhood team in his first visit to Philadelphia. Winston's stats aren't pretty but he's flashed talent to remind people why he was drafted with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Running back Doug Martin ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing yards. Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson (if healthy) are two big and fast receivers who will challenge Philadelphia's secondary.
I'm picking against the Eagles in this one. I want to say this is a winnable game for the Eagles, because I do think it is. And it's not that I think Tampa Bay is very good. The bigger concern is that I don't think the Eagles will be able to get out of their own way. I don't have a lot of trust in Chip Kelly's squad right now. I know they'll be competitive because the defense is legitimately good, but the offense is just too stagnant to rely upon.
Score prediction: 23-21, Eagles lose.
Bold prediction: Mark Sanchez doesn't throw a pick.
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