Philadelphia, PA - On Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles hit the road for the first time this year to challenge the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay is led by a white-hot Ryan Fitzpatrick, fresh off of torching the Saints defense for 417 yards and 4 touchdowns while completing 75% of his passes in an upset victory.
The defending champs held on in a tight opening night against the Falcons, where they stopped Atlanta on the goal line for 5 straight plays. Philly allowed wide receiver Julio Jones to go off for over 150 yards on 10 catches, and they cannot allow the same thing to one of Tampa’s receivers. Fitzpatrick’s primary weapons are Mike Evans, who has a near identical build to Jones, former-Eagle and speed threat DeSean Jackson, and 2nd-year tight end O.J. Howard. A significant contributor to Philadelphia’s come from behind victory was their goal line defense - or rather the ineptitude of Atlanta’s goal line offense. Atlanta had a failed 4th-and-goal attempt early in the game and called 5 straight passes from the same formation at the end of the game. Had the Falcons taken advantage of these opportunities, they very well could’ve stolen one at the Linc.
The Eagles need to take advantage of their deep defensive line depth and get after Fitzpatrick. If they give the veteran all day long in the pocket, he can and will throw for 400 more yards. As for the Eagles’ offense, Nick Foles needs to have a big day. With how much the Eagles worked the running game in the second half versus Atlanta, the Bucs likely will key in on the running game with star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Tampa also has an inexperienced secondary which had a tough day against Drew Brees and the Saints’ aerial attack. While Foles is no Drew Brees, he still can air it out and make big plays, as shown during the Eagles’ Super Bowl run. With wide receiver, Alshon Jeffery out for another week look for tight ends Zach Ertz and rookie Dallas Goedert to stretch the field and clear out the underneath areas for Sproles and the other backs to catch balls underneath.
Things won’t come as easy for Philadelphia as many would expect. The Buccaneers are a scrappy and confident team playing at home, and this could be an early season trap game for Philadelphia. If Philly can pressure Ryan Fitzpatrick and force him into one or two bad turnovers, they can take control of the game on the road. Expect the Eagles and head coach Doug Pederson to put a lot of trust in Nick Foles and allow him to air it out to some of his deep threats. Overall, I expect the Eagles to pick up another victory and improve to 2-0 with a hard fought 24-17 win.