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The Eagles and Buccaneers: A Look at What’s Different Since Their Last Matchup

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If you can completely ignore the fact that …

THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES WENT 1-5 IN THEIR FINAL SIX GAMES TO CHOKE AWAY THE NFC EAST LEAD AND END UP AS THE NUMBER 5 SEED

… it’s not hard to be excited about their upcoming wild card game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers! Playoffs, baby! One of 14 teams with a chance to win the Super Bowl! Anything can happen! It’s not over until it’s over!

Snark aside, this game is theoretically winnable. The Eagles are three-point road favorites, after all.

The Birds beat the Bucs in Week 3 by 14 points, which tied their largest margin of victory all season. And it was a 22-point lead for Philly until the Bucs scored a garbage time-ish touchdown (plus two-point conversion) with 9:22 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Of course, much has changed — on both sides — since the last time these two teams met. Here are some notable differences:

  • OVERALL TREND: Both teams were 2-0 in their last meeting. The Eagles finished 11-6 while the Bucs finished 9-8. But the Eagles went 1-5 in their last six while the Bucs went 5-1 in their last six. The Eagles’ point differential in that stretch: -59. The Bucs’ point differential in that stretch: +38.
  • QB INJURIES: Jalen Hurts was reportedly dealing with flu-like symptoms leading up to game time. Hurts is now dealing with a finger injury that isn’t expected to prevent him from playing but could conceivably impact his throwing ability. Baker Mayfield, meanwhile, was listed on last week’s injury report due to a ribs injury and he’s now dealing with an ankle as well. He’s expected to play but he could be hampered, as he appeared to be in Tampa’s regular season finale.
  • NON-QB INJURIES: The Eagles played their first game of the season without Avonte Maddox starting in the slot. That was the beginning of the short-lived James Bradberry at nickel experiment. Maddox is back now. The Eagles were also without Quez Watkins and Boston Scott, who were injured. The Eagles are dealing with some injuries heading into this week’s game; A.J. Brown, Cam Jurgens, Reed Blankenship, and Sydney Brown (ACL) got hurt in Week 18. The Bucs were missing starting cornerback Carlton Davis and promising rookie defensive tackle Calijah Kancey, who will be playing this time around. The Bucs also entered that game with Devin White, Cody Mauch, and Vita Vea ruled questionable to play. They all suited up but seemed to be operating at less than 100%. White ran out of bounds on a Jalen Hurts interception return that might’ve been a pick-six if he wasn’t hampered by a groin issue. Mauch had one of his worst games of the season by Pro Football Focus grading standards. Vea played his third-lowest snap count percentage in 2023.
  • COACHING: The Eagles made a panic move to demote defensive coordinator Sean Desai and turn to Matt Patricia to save their season. Shockingly hasn’t worked out! Philly’s defense is undeniably worse right now than it was back in late September.
  • RUNNING THE BALL: The Eagles ran 40 times for 201 yards (5.0 average) and one touchdown in Week 3. That was their second-best rushing total this season. Since then, they are averaging 116.6 rushing yards per game. 201 yards is the most the Bucs’ defense has allowed this year. Since that game, they’ve allowed just 93.6 per game. The Bucs currently rank tied for the fourth-fewest rushing yards per attempt allowed at 3.8. So, the Eagles could see a better run defense than they saw before. On the flip side, the Bucs are running the ball much better than they were early in the season. Tampa’s first 10 games: 76.9 average rushing yards. Tampa’s last seven games: 105.7 average rushing yards. That’s not good news for an Eagles run defense that’s really fallen off a cliff. Philly was allowing just 66.3 rushing yards per game in their nine games before the bye. In the eight games since then, they’ve allowed 145.1 per game.
  • DEPTH CHART: The Eagles have former Buc Julio Jones now. Game-changer. They also have Kevin Byard starting at safety instead of Justin Evans. Bucs left guard Matt Feiler lost his job to backup Aaron Stinnie while injured. Tampa rookie edge rusher YaYa Diaby has developed into a good starter; he has 7.5 sacks and 11 TFLs in his last 11 games.
  • SCHEDULE: The Eagles were the more well-rested side coming off their mini-bye having played on Thursday night in Week 2. The Bucs have the slightest of rest advantages (if you can call it that) this time around since they played at 1:00 PM in Week 18 and the Eagles played at 4:25.
  • WEATHER: It rained at times in Week 3. And apparently it might rain again?! Forecast from Weather.com:“Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm during the evening, then some lingering showers still possible overnight. Low 56F. Winds W at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 70%.”
  • FANS: Interested to see what the fan turnout is like. Eagles fans almost always travel well … and there are a lot of Philly fans living in Florida. But is the normal level of energy and enthusiasm going to be there for a team that’s finished the season 1-5? I’m guessing the Bucs’ side might have a better showing for a home playoff game than a random Week 3 matchup?

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