Philadelphia Eagles (9-8, 8-8-1 ATS) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4, 9-8), 1 p.m., Sunday
Brolley’s Eagles Stats and Trends
The Eagles finished the year 6-1 outright and 4-2-1 ATS in the final seven games they played with their starters in the lineup.
Philly is 4-1 toward overs in its last five games.
Sunday’s action kicks off with a rematch of a Thursday Night Football showdown from Week 6 between the Buccaneers and Eagles. Tampa Bay escaped Philadelphia with a 28-22 victory in a game totaled at 53 points, but the Eagles left with the backdoor cover as seven-point home underdogs by scoring the last two touchdowns and a two-point conversion.
Both of these teams have undergone some changes since then, especially the Eagles who have moved toward a more run-heavy approach. Philadelphia is averaging 189.8 rushing yards per game over their last 10 contests after averaging 116.7 rushing yards per game through their first seven contests. The Eagles set a franchise record with 2715 rushing yards this season and Jalen Hurts actually finished as their leading rushing with 784 yards. He reached 26.0 FP against Tampa Bay in that Week 6 matchup with 115/1 passing and 10/44/2 rushing, and the Buccaneers allowed the fourth-most rushing yards per game (23.5) to QBs.
Philadelphia’s backfield will be back at full strength with Miles Sanders (hand) and Jordan Howard (COVID) returning to the lineup. Sanders (49% snap share) and Howard (48%) dominated the work in this backfield the last time this group was healthy back in Week 16, with Kenneth Gainwell seeing an 8% share and Boston Scott failing to register an offensive snap. Philly’s run game will be tested this week against a Tampa Bay defense that’s allowing the third-fewest rushing yards per game (92.5). The Eagles attempted just nine rushing attempts with their RBs back in Week 6, with Sanders doing all of the work with 9/56 rushing and 2/10 receiving. The Bucs’ run defense has shown some cracks late in the year, allowing 100+ rushing yards in five of their last six games after allowing 100+ yards just three times in their first 10 contests.
Dallas Goedert has emerged as Hurts’ top target with 6+ catches and 70+ yards in three of his last four games. He’s scored (twice) in just one of his last 11 contests, and he’s also under five FP in three of his last six games. Goedert missed this matchup back in Week 6 while Zach Ertz managed 4/29/1 receiving in his final game with the Eagles’ organization.
DeVonta Smith played long enough in the season finale to break DeSean Jackson’s rookie franchise record with 916 receiving yards. He’s finished with fewer than nine FP in four of his last five full games, and he’s topped six targets just once in his last nine games. Smith managed just 2/31 receiving on four targets when these teams met in mid-October.
Brolley’s Buccaneers Stats and Trends
The Buccaneers won seven of their final eight games with a 6-2 ATS mark in that span.
Tampa Bay has played over the total in four straight games against teams with winning records.
Tom Brady will start his journey for an eighth Super Bowl title and his second ring in as many years with the Buccaneers. Brady is coming off a career-best 5316 passing yards, and he joined Drew Brees as the only player to reach 5000 passing yards twice in a career. He also set a Bucs’ record with 43 touchdown passes. Brady has finished with 325+ yards and three TDs in each of his last two games against the Jets and Panthers even with an undermanned receiving corps. He carved up the Eagles in mid-October, completing 34/42 passes for 297 yards (7.1 YPA), two TDs, and one INT.
Tampa Bay will look to defend its Super Bowl title without WRs Chris Godwin (ACL) and Antonio Brown (released). Mike Evans will be doing the heavy lifting for this WR corps, and he’s seen seven targets in each of his first two games without Godwin and with AB quitting midgame in Week 17. Evans just finished extending his NFL-best run of eight seasons with 1000 yards to open his career, and he also set a franchise record with 14 touchdown receptions. He managed just 2/27 receiving on four targets with Darius Slay watching him in Week 6.
Rob Gronkowski is on fire heading into the playoffs since Godwin and AB left the lineup, finishing with seven catches, 10 targets, and 115+ yards in two consecutive games. Gronk missed this contest back in mid-October but O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate combined for 9/75/1 receiving. The Eagles allowed a league-high 17.4 FP to TEs this season.
Cyril Grayson strung together a pair of 81-yard games in Weeks 16-17 before he injured his hamstring in the season finale. Tyler Johnson led the Buccaneers' secondary WRs with an 87% snap share followed by Breshad Perriman (62%) and Scotty Miller (23%). Johnson posted 5/22 receiving on seven targets, Perriman finished with 5/44 receiving on seven targets, and Miller managed just a nine-yard catch but he added 2/43/1 rushing. Perriman should primarily take Grayson’s spot in the lineup if he’s unable to go with Johnson playing as the primary slot receiver and Miller rotating in behind them.
Leonard Fournette is expected to return to the lineup after landing on the injured reserve with a hamstring injury for the final three games of the season. He’s posted 6+ catches in five of his last six contests. He was averaging 19.2/99.8 scrimmage per game with 10 touchdowns in 11 games in Weeks 4-15 before his injury. One of those games included a 30.7 FP performance against the Eagles when he posted 22/81/2 rushing and 6/46 receiving in Week 6.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 27.6 (9th)
Plays per game: 65.5 (16th)
Pass: 51.3% (32nd) | Run: 48.7% (1stt)
Pace: 27.4 (7th)
Plays per game: 69.4 (7th)
Pass: 67.6% (1st) | Run: 32.4% (32nd)
Obviously, the biggest key for the Eagles to pull off the upset win as 9-point underdogs is how well they run the ball. From Week 10 on, Philadelphia went an astronomical 63% run-heavy on early-downs and those runs gained a strong 5.1 YPC in this span (third-best) as the Eagles basically took a carbon-copy of the 2018 Ravens offense with Lamar Jackson.
While Jalen Hurts is averaging just 23.8 pass attempts per game over his last eight starts, he has been an integral part of their rush attack and has seven or more carries in 7 of his last 8. Tampa’s usually stout run defense showed cracks at the end of the year, but that was largely because they were missing some of their key starters. The Bucs’ front-seven is getting massive reinforcements coming with LB Lavonte David and EDGE defenders Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul all likely back for the Wild Card round.
Meanwhile, the Bucs’ are in an interesting spot offensively here. While the Eagles are built for an ugly weather game, we know what Tom Brady wants to do. Tampa Bay led the league in pass rate in close games (69.2%), when leading (62.7%), and when trailing (73.2%) this season and may not be able to stick to their extreme pass-heavy plan if this weather report holds (more below). Leonard Fournette is coming back just in time.
Overall, this is the second-best matchup of the Wild Card round from a pace / plays perspective between these two offenses that are top-10 in seconds per play – but the weather could obviously end up bogging the game down if the rain and wind doesn’t clear out Sunday morning.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
As long as Breshad Perriman can clear the injury report with his sore hip, he offers a lot of upside and salary relief as a likely starter along the right sideline. It pains me to admit that the Bucs will be without Cyril Grayson this week after pulling his hamstring early in Week 18. While it most definitely helps, receiving throws from The GOAT isn’t the only major draw to Perriman.
With Mike Evans spending two-thirds of his time on the left side and Darius Slay likely tailing him, Perriman is going to see a ton of Steven Nelson. In the eight games where Slay shadowed the opposing WR1, Nelson has allowed three of Philly’s four receiving TDs, 75% of targets into his coverage to be completed, and a 124.1 TPR.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
Weather is looking like a factor for at least two games this Wild Card weekend. There will be frigid conditions in Buffalo, and there could be sloppy conditions in Tampa.
Weather will be a factor Sunday vs. Eagles. Windy with rain early, remaining cloudy with showers in the afternoon. High 72F. Winds SW at 20 to 30 mph. Chance of rain 70%. Rainfall near a quarter of an inch. Higher wind gusts possible. Eagles own No. 1 rushing team in NFL.— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) January 12, 2022
Cold front trends for Sunday favor line of showers and thunderstorms moving across Tampa Bay area from early morning to mid-day. Weather for #Bucs game looks windy and cool with clouds, passing shower, temps in 60s. Not awful. I'm tracking it. #GoBucs— Paul Dellegatto⚡️FOX (@PaulFox13) January 14, 2022
These two teams last met back in Week 6, and it is staggering how different they will look in the Wild Card round.
The Buccaneers will look different because of injuries. Three of their top four receivers in that game — Antonio Brown, OJ Howard, and Chris Godwin — will not play in this game.
RB Leonard Fournette — who was their best performer in that game by far — is expected to return from a hamstring injury this week but it remains to be seen how effective he is. For what it’s worth, coach Bruce Arians is calling him questionable.
Bruce Arians says he feels pretty good about the availability of Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul but Lavonte David and Leonard Fournette are more questionable.— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) January 14, 2022
Given the Bucs’ various injuries at the receiver positions, and the fact that Eagle CB Darius Slay did a fantastic job on Mike Evans last time out will make things a little bit more difficult for Tom Brady.
On the flip side, Brady will have Rob Gronkowski in this game after not having him in the Week 6 showdown. Nobody allowed more FPG to TEs this year than did the Eagles, so I’d consider Gronk a near must-play.
One guy who could be needed to step up with Slay likely on Evans is veteran Breshad Perriman, who looks ready to play this week.
#Bucs WR Breshad Perriman was spotted near trainers at practice, but is speaking with reporters now. "I'm feeling good," he said. "I usually talk to the trainers a lot. Those are my guys, but I'm feeling good and I'm just ready to get out there on Sunday."— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) January 13, 2022
This is hard to imagine, but back in Week 6, the Eagles — who led the NFL in rushing this season — handed the ball to RBs just 9 times (all to Miles Sanders). Yes, the Buccaneers did and still do have one of the league’s best run defenses, but after Week 6, the Eagles were just 15th in the NFL in rushing, despite QB Jalen Hurts ranking 2nd among all QBs over the NFL in rushing yards in that span with 300. (Because Lamar Jackson dealt with significant availability issues this year, Hurts led all QBs in rushing for the full season with 784 yards.)
The Bucs’ run defense is stout with DT Vita Vea anchoring the middle and LB Lavonte David activated from IR, so this will be the Bucs’ defensive strength against the Eagles’ offensive strength.
And the Eagles do believe they will be at full strength in their backfield for this one. Sanders (hand surgery) and Jordan Howard (knee) are both expected to play — Howard wasn’t even part of the active roster when these two teams met back in Week 6.
No noticeable wrap on Miles Sanders’ fractured hand as he enters practice. pic.twitter.com/T0uSLjQMCp— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) January 13, 2022