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NFL expert Mike Spector analyzes the NFC Wild Card matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
ANALYSIS

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Philadelphia Eagles Prediction: Will the Buccaneers Struggle in the NFC Wild Card Without Key Weapons?

The Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers met in the playoffs for three consecutive years from 2000-2002, but this is their first postseason matchup since. The Eagles are a dangerous opponent, having won six of seven games before a loss in the regular-season finale to Dallas. Will that hot streak continue in the Wild Card Round, or will the Buccaneers prove they are ready to defend last year’s Super Bowl title?

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Philadelphia Eagles Start Time, Where to Watch, and Odds

Date: Sunday, January 16

Game Time: 1:00 pm ET

Where to Watch: FOX

Click Here for Buccaneers vs Eagles Odds

Buccaneers vs. Eagles INJURY REPORT

Eagles

Questionable: OT Lane Johnson, C Landon Dickerson, RB Miles Sanders, DT Marvin Wilson, CB Kary Vincent Jr.

Out: OT Brett Toth, TE Tyree Jackson, WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

Buccaneers

Questionable: WR Cyril Grayson, WR Justin Watson, LB, Jason Pierre-Paul, CB Rashard Robinson, CB Richard Sherman, RB Ronald Jones II, RB Leonard Fournette

Out: WR Chris Godwin

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Philadelphia Eagles Line Movement

Buccaneers vs. Eagles NFC Wild Card Prediction

Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is destined to finish either No. 1 or No. 2 in this year’s MVP voting, after leading the NFL with 5,316 passing yards (third-most in a season all-time) and 43 touchdown passes. Though he no longer has top wideout Chris Godwin or Antonio Brown to throw to, he still has a special connection with Mike Evans and will likely lean on him and tight end Rob Gronkowski even more in the playoffs. Evans broke his own single-season franchise record with 15 touchdown catches and became the first player in NFL history with 1,000 or more receiving yards in each of his first eight seasons.

Tampa Bay beat Philadelphia on the road 28-22 in Week 6, but the final score does not indicate how lopsided the game was at one point. The Buccaneers were in control 28-7 midway through the third quarter and had a 28-14 lead entering the fourth before a late Eagles touchdown cut the lead to six. However, that game was played under many different circumstances than will be at play in this rematch.

Antonio Brown was Tampa Bay’s leading receiver with nine catches for 93 yards and a touchdown in that game, but he will not be available this week after he was released. In addition, a fully healthy Leonard Fournette ran for 81 yards and two touchdowns, but he may be on a pitch count if he is active after missing the team’s last three games. Chris Godwin also added five catches for 43 yards. While it could be argued the Buccaneers were missing a significant asset to their passing game in Rob Gronkowski that night, his presence in this game does not make up for the two explosive playmakers, Godwin and Brown that the team will be without on the perimeter.

Another big difference this time around is the newfound confidence that Jalen Hurts is playing with. In Weeks 1-7, Hurts went 2-5 as a starter with a Total QBR of 39 and averaged 7.1 yards per attempt and 8.5 air yards per attempt. Since Week 8, Hurts is 6-2 with a Total QBR of 59 and has averaged 7.5 yards per attempt and 9.6 air yards per attempt. He ranks in the top ten in the NFL in all four categories since Week 8. 

Hurts’ ability to make big plays through the air will be necessary given how impossible it is to establish a consistent running game against Tampa Bay. However, his numbers over the second half of the season suggest he can have a big day.

Philadelphia activated several key players from the reserve/COVID-19 list, including DT Fletcher Cox, CB Avonte Maddox, and RB Jordan Howard. Thus, they will be a much healthier team than the one they trotted out in a 51-26 Week 18 loss to the Cowboys. However, bettors should not be swayed by those results, as the Eagles did not have anything to gain after having already clinched a playoff berth.

The Eagles are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 playoff games as underdogs, and the underdog has covered the spread in four of the previous five meetings between these teams. The fact that Philadelphia saw Tom Brady and this explosive Buccaneers offense up close this year should help them prepare better this week. However, they will quickly find out that Tampa Bay sorely missed Godwin and Brown, leading to a closer game than the experts predict.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Philadelphia Eagles Pick

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Mike Spector brings unmatched knowledge and insight into the game of football, and more importantly the process of betting on NFL football. Mike is the #2 ranked expert in FantasyPros' NFL betting contest

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