The Philadelphia Eagles are preparing for their regular season finale. It’s a relatively meaningless game for them, but the same can’t be said for other NFC teams, who are fighting for their playoff future or potential seeding. The Eagles are likely to face one of two teams in the wildcard round, but who would present the easier matchup?
On the surface, the Bucs have won 12 of their 16 games this season and look primed to defend their Super Bowl crown deep into the postseason. When you dig a little deeper, it’s clear that the wheels are beginning to wobble.
The Bucs have battled hard through injuries this year and it’s left them shorthanded at the worst time. Chris Godwin picked up a season-ending knee injury in week 15 and in that same game, Leonard Fournette also fell injured. The linebacker corps has been ripped to shreds and now it’s been made official that Ronald Jones will miss week 18.
Only adding insult to injury is the Antonio Brown saga that casts a dark cloud over the franchise. Bruce Arians has to bring the locker room together at a time like this and while that shouldn’t be too difficult, there is a worry that some players might disagree with how Arians handled the AB scenario.
On that note, the WR position is down to Mike Evans and an Eagles’ 2020 roster reconstruction. Cyril Grayon Jr. had a nice outing in each of the last two games, but he’s no Chris Godwin. With AB now firmly out of the picture, the Bucs are going to be lacking pass-catchers and could be heavily limited in the backfield.
Then, there’s the fact that offensive coordinator, Byron Leftwich, is going to interview for the Jags Head Coaching job. This sort of thing is always going to be expected, but it’s never nice for players to hear that one of their coaches is eyeing a promotion elsewhere.
If it is the Bucs who will face the Eagles, it’s probably going to be Tom Brady and his pass-rush vs Philadelphia, which is a matchup he’s probably dreamed about ever since he lost Super Bowl 52 to Nick Foles, falling a play short of the mark.
Brady has the perfect excuse to put an even bigger chip on his shoulder and that’s not great news considering that in his six career games against the Eagles, he’s totalled a passer rating of 92.7, 1,821 yards, 12 picks, 3 interceptions in 6 games against the Eagles. That’s an average of 303 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0.5 interceptions per game. Ah.
This is bad news for an Eagles defense that was methodically carved apart by Brady earlier in the year. It was only a one possession loss in the end and that should inspire some hope in Philadelphia, but the Birds developed a habit of being obliterated by strong opposing QB’s and then went through a run of facing no signal caller of relevance. It’s about to go 0-100 and Gannon is going to be tested.
The Bucs will become the #2 seed providing they beat the Panthers and the Niners beat the Rams. It’s a huge momentum shift, but are we really banking on San Francisco beating L.A? I don’t think so.
If Tampa want to risk their starters, there’s a chance that they suffer even greater setbacks and limp into a matchup against an Eagles team that hasn’t seen this kind of health at this point in the season for a very long time. They might
Then, there’s the Rams. Those pesky Los Angeles, Sean McVay coached Rams who seem to do everything perfectly except learn how to color coordinate a uniform.
The Rams have won each of their last five games in very similar fashion to Philadelphia. Sony Michel has found great success behind the bruising Rams offensive front, amassing 497 yards and a trio of touchdowns in that span. They’ll get Cam Akers back this week who should be ready to go for the playoffs, which is just great.
Having a diverse rushing attack is one thing, but having a wide receiver on the verge of breaking the NFL receiving record is something else entirely. Cooper Kupp has 1,829 yards on the season…which is frankly a ridiculous number. No matter how the Eagles could try to defend Kupp, it would just be a case of damage limitation.
Matt Stafford has enjoyed the breakout many expected he would in Los Angeles. He’s not being sacked 12 times a game anymore and is finally able to flourish, ranking second in the NFL behind only Tom Brady in yards and touchdowns this season. He’s been sacked 25 times all season (1.6 per game, second fewest in the NFL) and ranks second in net yards per pass attempt. He’s going to be a problem…even if he does have a tendency to wobble at the worst times.
We haven’t even mentioned Jalen Ramsey, Taylor Rapp, Aaron Donald, or the fact that the Rams have the sixth ranked rushing defense and have only allowed 15 passing touchdowns on the year.
The Rams are a well-oiled machine who look primed for a very deep and devestating playoff run. The Bucs have the reputation and the crown in hand, but may well be flailing just enough for the Eagles to sneak past in a surprise upset. Achieving such a feat against a team as complete as this would be an incredible statement, but it’s a much tougher one to make.
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