This Monday at 7:15pm CST, the NFL will wrap up Wild Card Weekend with the Philadelphia Eagles traveling south to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. This matchup will feature the #4 vs. #5 seeds as Tampa (NFC South) finished with the lowest record of all NFC division winners at 9-8 and Philly earned the top Wild Card spot with an 11-6 record. This will mark the second playoff meeting in just three years between the two teams, with the Bucs playing host both times.
At the end of this past regular season, these were two ball clubs headed in vastly different directions. The Buccaneers finished strong going 5-1, with their only loss coming to division rival New Orleans Saints at home in Week 17. On the contrary, after starting 10-1, the Eagles faltered down the stretch losing 5 of 6, including a blowout loss to the New York Giants in their regular season finale. This will also be a rematch of the Week 3 clash between the two NFC foes in which Philadelphia dominated 25-11 on the road against Tampa Bay. Playoff wise, though this will be Jalen Hurts second time facing the Bucs, this time around he won’t be facing Tom Brady on the opposing sideline. Instead, he’ll square off against his former Oklahoma Sooner alum Baker Mayfield, who definitely is no Brady, but yet has exceeded many people’s expectations this year.
I’m certain most who watch closely would concur that these two teams look a lot different from when they played early on in the season. In that first clash, RB D’Andre Swift ran for 130 of the team’s 201 rushing yards as the Eagles mauled Todd Bowles’ defense up front and held the Buccaneers to 41 yards total on the ground. While the Bucs will need to flip the physicality war from the initial matchup this season, the Eagles will look to rebound from their poor play as of late. They have not nearly been the dominant rushing offense they once were 10 games into the season and the Jalen Hurts finger injury has seemingly played a role in his inconsistency throughout recent weeks. Meanwhile, Baker Mayfield has steadied the ship in Tampa, no pun intended, and played decisively within Dave Conales’ offense.
All things being factored in and with the Eagles getting back the likes of WR Devonta Smith, CB Darius “Big Play” Slay and gaining health up front, I believe Philadelphia will bounce back to start the post season. I think this will be an extremely physical contest that will come down to field position and which QB can make plays at opportune times. We should be in for a good one!
My Prediction: Eagles 27 - Bucs 20