For the second time this season, the Philadelphia Eagles are in Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. In order to preview this wild card playoff matchup, I reached out to our enemies over at Bucs Nation. The excellent Evan Wanish kindly took the time to answer my questions about this upcoming battle. Let’s take a look at the answers. [For my answers to Evan’s questions about the Eagles, stay tuned to BN.]
1) As you may imagine, Eagles fans are feeling pretty bad about their team’s 1-5 finish. How are Bucs fans feeling about their team entering the playoffs?
I think Bucs fans are really split on what to expect heading into the playoffs. Some are cautiously optimistic while others don’t see Tampa Bay as having much of a chance. I think part of that pessimism comes from the final two weeks of the season where the Bucs did not play great football, losing to the Saints at home and then failing to score a touchdown against the worst team in the NFL in Carolina even though Tampa won the game. I do think fans are thankful that the team drew the Eagles instead of Dallas though.
[BLG Note: This question was answered before the Cowboys’ loss to the Green Bay Packers.]
2) Let’s revisit the same question I asked you leading up to Week 3: “Are you buying or selling Baker Mayfield as the Bucs’ QB of the future?”
At this point and time, I do think Baker Mayfield will be the Buccaneers QB in 2024. The bigger question is what type of contract will be receive. I would personally advise Tampa Bay to be cautious with the type of contract they give Mayfield. He has played well this season, but has also been inconsistent throughout his career and even at times this year. He’s battled through a lot of adversity, but his ceiling is still limited as a starting QB in the NFL.
Tying yourself to a big contract for Mayfield could end up sinking the Bucs ship if he reverts back to old habits.
3) What’s the biggest difference for the Bucs since the last time these two teams met?
The biggest difference is easily the Bucs offense being much more in sync and that makes sense. The last time these teams met, it was the third game of the season. Offensive coordinator Dave Canales was still trying to get his feet wet as a play caller in the NFL and a lot of the new pieces the Bucs were trying to work into their offense have now gotten more comfortable.
I would say the run game and the overall usage of Rachaad White has improved significantly since that game. Look for a better offensive performance for Tampa Bay on Monday night, even though it still won’t be perfect.
4) What’s one matchup you like in Philly’s favor and one matchup you like in Tampa’s favor?
One matchup I like in Philly’s favor is the Eagles offensive line vs Tampa’s defensive line. Even though the Bucs defense had 48 sacks this year which was tied for the 7th most in the NFL this year, the eye test does not back that up. Guys that the Bucs were relying upon like Shaq Barrett and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka have been massive disappointments and in fact most of the Bucs pass rush has come from rookie Yaya Diaby. In week three the Eagles ran for 201 yards on the ground. With the weather being questionable for Monday night, I think Philly could take advantage of a Bucs defensive line that has been overpowered at times this season.
As for a matchup in Tampa’s favor, I have to go with the Bucs receivers against the Eagles secondary. Tampa’s defense is giving up the 4th most passing yards per game with 248.9 which is bad, but Philly is somehow worse, giving up the 2nd most passing yards per game with 252.7. Mike Evans is having a fantastic season once again and Chris Godwin has been getting more involved in the offense. If Mayfield has time, he should be able to find these guys down the field.
5) Who wins this game and why? With DraftKings Sportsbook listing the Eagles as 3-point road favorites, what’s your score prediction?
I like the Bucs chances in this one a lot now than I did a few weeks ago. Between the Eagles struggles and injuries, I think Tampa is catching them at the right time. That being said, I still think the Eagles are the more talented team and in the playoffs is where talent matters the most. The projected weather does not seem to favor much offense in this game so I think it will come down to who can run the ball the best and the Eagles have the Bucs beat in that category. I like the Eagles to cover in this one and win by a score of 23-17.
James Yarcho of Bucs Nation joined BGN Radio’s John Stolnis for this week’s Eye On The Enemy podcast.