There are bound to be a lot of factors that come into play on Sunday when the Bucs face the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. From Offensive line efficiency to the consistency of Mark Sanchez. But the most important by a mile is discipline and here’s why.
When it comes to penalties, the Eagles and the Bucs are two of the worst offenders in the league. The Eagles have had 88 flags thrown their way and 68 of those resulted in a loss of yardage. The birds have lost over 500 yards in nine games due to penalties whilst the Bucs have lost 717 on 103 total flags and 88 penalties.
The numbers are scarily high without a doubt but it runs deeper than pass interference or holding calls. The Eagles have had 26 penalties in nine games, not overall but before the snap. Which is a huge problem. The Bucs have had 35 in that same category.
The problem is that the Eagles Defensively rarely jump the snap but Offensively, it’s a mirror opposite. The Offensive Line have been shocking when it comes to timing. Whether it’s miscommunication or just a lack of concentration, there have been too many occasions where the Eagles have had a crucial 3rd down or just picked up some big yards before a penalty stops the momentum, kills the drive and eventually leads to a punt. It’s infuriating to watch and worryingly the Eagles have 12 false start penalties in just nine games.
The Bucs on the other hand have a reverse problem, giving up major yards defensively and losing six calls on Offside penalties this season. For an Offense as fast as Chip Kelly’s catching such a nervous team offside should be a critical part of the gameplan.
Both teams have had problems with penalties this season but the Bucs are second in total flags to only the Bills. Everybody is focused on Mark Sanchez returning to the field for his first full game in a year and talking about how Winston could be looking for a fifth consecutive game in which he has scored a touchdown, but everybody seems to be overlooking how bad the penalty situation really is.
This is a pair of teams who have been plagued by the referees since the start of the season and a win for the Eagles may well come down to their own discipline and concentration. If the birds can establish an early dominance and force the Bucs into some offside calls or potentially roughing the passer depending on how weak the Offensive Line is on the day, then it could lay an early tone and become a huge advantage.
We know this Offense can go toe-to-toe with ANY Defense when it’s all systems go and every player is making the big plays, but when it isn’t, that’s when the problems strike. If the Eagles can cut those out then they should easily be the favourites to capitalise on an inconsistent, shaky and undisciplined Bucs team.
The Eagles don’t need to beat the Bucs, they need to beat themselves.