All week long, I’ve gone back and forth on who’s going to win the Philadelphia Eagles’ wild card playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The one thing that I’ve struggled to get past is envisioning Tom Brady and the reigning Super Bowl champions being knocked out in the first round a year after winning the title. Especially by a team with a rookie head coach and a quarterback making his first postseason start.
But I’ve also felt very confident that the Eagles are going to make this a game and at least cover the spread. This team, while flawed, has fight in them. The vibes are too good for the season to end on a total embarrassment. Right?
It’s only fair to be skeptical about the Eagles being able to beat a playoff-caliber team. It’s something they haven’t done all season long. The closest they came was stomping on the New Orleans Saints. a team that swept the Bucs in 2021.
As we all know, the Eagles were able to run the ball all over NO’s No. 1 run defense. It’s a recipe they’ll have to stick with against a lesser Bucs defense. The Birds can’t afford to do what they did last time they went up against Todd Bowles and accommodate his desire to take away the rushing attack by not even attempting to pound the rock.
I can’t say I have full, unmitigated confidence in Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts entering this game. But there is reason for optimism. Sirianni is a big reason why the Eagles were able to turn the season around. Hurts can be trusted to not turn the ball over a ton and his mobility figures to be an asset, especially after being able to rest his ankle.
Win or lose, this game shouldn't solely determine how these two are viewed entering the offseason. Of course, it would be hard to totally ignore the lasting impression of a disappointing defeat.
But the big picture discussions can be saved for another day. For now, it’s all about Sunday afternoon and if the Eagles can actually pull off an upset in some potentially rainy and ugly weather in Tampa.
If I’m picking with my head, I have to take the Bucs. How can one merely assume Jonathan Gannon has an answer for the GOAT when 1) most defensive coordinators rarely do and 2) his defense has been picked apart by non-terrible quarterbacks? The Bucs are missing a number of key players in Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin, and Leonard Fournette, for example, but they still have Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski. The Eagles have no obvious answer to cover the latter.
And even if the defense does hold up better than expected, it’s not like the offense is guaranteed to put up points at will. Bowles was able to limit the Eagles to just 14 points until late in the third quarter in the first matchup between these two teams. Indeed, dynamics have changed since then. But there are still questions about Hurts’ ability to lead the Eagles with his arm if the running game is shut up. What if Hurts is destined to being shut down in the playoffs like Lamar Jackson, a player he’s often compared to, has been to this point in his career?
If I’m picking with my heart, I have to take the Eagles. Where’s the fun in not giving them a chance? Besides, they already exceeded expectations in the regular season. Who’s to say they don’t keep the positive vibes rolling? In a game that I expect to be close, it’s possible they can get a lucky bounce or two that ends up being a deciding factor.
The Bucs are tough but they’re not unbeatable.
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Score prediction: 33 to 32, Eagles win.
Bold prediction: Miles Sanders rushes for his three touchdowns after not scoring a single time in the regular season.
Leave your own score predictions in the comments.
Will the Eagles beat the Buccaneers?
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