PHILADELPHIA - The NFL Playoffs are upon us and the Philadelphia Eagles have a date with the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The season finale was forgettable for the Eagles, as they sat most of their starters and allowed the hated Cowboys to post 51 points in a loss. It’s no cause for alarm, however, as the extra break has helped several key players get close to 100%, including quarterback Jalen Hurts. Running back Miles Sanders is hopeful to return to the lineup as well and add to an already strong rushing attack.
Philadelphia Eagles Take on Tom Brady and The Buccaneers
Philly did draw one of the best teams in the conference in the Buccaneers. Quarterback Tom Brady is aging like fine wine at 44 years old, making do with a supporting cast that’s missing three starting receivers and its starting running back. Tampa is entering the playoffs on a high note, having won their last three games and securing the No. 2 seed in the tournament. The defending champs are going to be a tough out for the Eagles.
These two teams did play earlier in the season – a 28-22 Tampa Bay victory in Philadelphia. In that game, the Eagles fell behind early and relied on their passing game to draw close. Miles Sanders infamously got just nine carries in that game. No matter who lines up in the backfield for the Eagles, expect plenty of runs. The mid-season identity change to a run-first team has served the Eagles well, capitalizing on an experienced and strong offensive line while taking pressure off of Hurts as a passer and taking advantage of his running ability instead.
Defensively, I expect an aggressive scheme from defensive coordinator Johnathan Gannon. Giving Brady time in the pocket will allow him to find open receivers, no matter who ends up playing outside for Tampa Bay. Pressuring the quarterback while also keying on short passes should force Brady to have to hold the ball and wait for his receivers to get open downfield. In past playoff runs, teams that have pressured Brady were able to knock off his teams. The Eagles need to find a way to do the same thing.
The Eagles have far exceeded expectations this year, and once again they find themselves as underdogs. I don’t think Philly will quite knock off the Bucs, but they will come very close.
Final score: Buccaneers, 24. Eagles, 21.