Game Preview – Wild Card – PHI at TB

Posted: January 14th, 2024 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Game Preview – Wild Card – PHI at TB

The Eagles came painfully close to winning the Super Bowl last year. Since that game ended, the team has had one thing on their mind. Getting back. And that meant focusing on the playoffs. They are finally here.

Are the Eagles ready?

Nick Sirianni’s team stumbled down the stretch. That’s putting it mildly, to be honest. They collapsed like me after drinking a case of PBR and then trying to walk anywhere. As bad as that collapse was, the beauty of the playoffs is that everyone starts 0-0.

Cleveland won 4 out of its last 5 games in the regular season. The only loss came in the finale when they rested their starters. Houston destroyed them in the wild card game, 45-14. Dallas won its final two games of the regular season and secured the #2 seed. Would this be the year that they had some postseason success? No. Hell no. Green Bay beat them 48-32 and the game wasn’t nearly that close. The Packers had leads of 27-0 and 48-16 before allowing some late points. Funny things happen in January.

I have no idea what to expect from this Eagles team. They’ve been hard to read all year long. Everytime I thought I had them figured out, they threw me a curve ball that would make Jim Palmer proud.

If the Eagles are going to win, they need to score. No one trusts the defense to shut anyone down. The Eagles will be missing AJ Brown. I’m curious to see how the Eagles plan to approach this game. Will they go with 12 personnel a lot? Will they stick with three receivers and hope that one of Quez Watkins/Julio Jones/Olamide Zaccheaus steps up? Maybe D’Andre Swift plays some in the slot.

The Eagles still have enough firepower to move the ball and score points. But they must play well. The offense has been erratic in recent weeks. Sirianni and Brian Johnson need a great gameplan. Jalen Hurts needs to make plays and avoid mistakes.

We know Tampa likes to blitz. The Eagles have struggled with handling the blitz in the last couple of weeks. The coaches need to have a good plan for this. The RBs need to do their, part picking up blitzers or getting out on hot routes. Hurts has the key role in all of this. He must make good pre-snap reads and then get the ball out in a timely fashion. Too often it seems like Hurts and the coaches want to burn the blitz with big plays. That just hasn’t worked this season.

The Eagles did handle Tampa’s blitz well back in Week 3. The Bucs defense is better than they were back then and the Eagles offense has had their share of issues. That game tape doesn’t mean a whole lot.

One of the challenges when playing the Bucs is that they have seven players with 4 or more sacks. The OL can’t focus on one guy. The Bucs have a deep, talented group that can be disruptive. The Eagles OL must win the battle up front.

Philly ran the ball well that night, going for 201 yards.

If the Eagles are going to win without AJ Brown, they will need another strong rushing performance. D’Andre Swift didn’t play last week so he should have fresh legs on Monday night. This will be his first playoff game so let’s hope that brings out the best in him.

Brown had a monster game in Week 3, going 9-131. DeVonta Smith doesn’t have to put up those numbers, but he needs to play like a star receiver. He’s got to make some plays.

One of the key areas in this game will be the red zone. The Eagles were just 1 for 5 in the first meeting, which kept that game closer than it should have been. Tampa finished the season third in red zone defense so they’ve been stingy in there all year long.

And now for the defense.

This group has been disappointing since the win over Miami in late October. Sean Desai was replaced by Matt Patricia and that didn’t solve a thing. Injuries have been an issue all year and that could be the case on Monday night.

Reed Blankenship has a groin injury and will be a gametime decision. If he’s out, Avonte Maddox will move to safety. He’s played there before and can do a solid job. That does weaken the Eagles in the slot. They could go with James Bradberry or Bradley Roby in there. Not ideal options.

The Eagles are healthy up front. If the Eagles are going to win this game, they need the DL to play well and really impact the game. That can be sacks, pressures, TFLs…whatever. They have to affect Baker Mayfield. Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis played well back in Week 3. They need to make their presence felt.

Darius Slay is back just in time to cover Mike Evans, one of the best receivers in the league. Evans caught 3 passes in each of the last two regular season games. He didn’t score a TD. The Bucs offense struggled in those games, scoring just a total of 22 points. Limit Evans and the Bucs offense has problems.

One of the problems the Eagles defense has had recently is poor communication and lots of confusion. I don’t know that the coaches can get that sorted out in one week. The best hope is for them to quit trying to do too much and simplify the defense. Let the players play fast and attack. You can’t do that if you’re thinking too much.

Tampa is 10th in third down offense, but only 30th in the red zone. They can move the chains, but struggle to score TDs. The Eagles red zone defense is…30th. Which unit will come up bigger in those key situations? That could decide the game.

I have no idea who the intangibles favor. Tampa is at home, but that could actually benefit the Eagles. They might not feel as much pressure as they would in front of their own fans. The Bucs were hotter in December. Maybe that gives them an edge.

Put up or shut up.

The Eagles have thrown excuses at us all year long. That stuff is all out the window. Win and advance. Or lose and go home, and then face a lot of unpleasant questions. Go win this game and keep the season going for one more week.

Find a way to win.

Or get ready for a long, cold winter.


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