Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts will be making his postseason debut against Brady, for whom Sunday’s game will be his 46th career playoff start. It’ll be a really interesting matchup of two wildly different teams led by wildly different signal-callers.
Philadelphia rested in Week 18 with nothing to play for and got crushed by the Dallas Cowboys 51-26 while the Buccaneers rolled with their starters and dominated the Carolina Panthers 41-17 for their 13th win.
On the broader betting markets, Tampa Bay opened as seven-point favorites but they quickly moved up to around 9½-point favorites, which is what the Buccaneers are right now on the BetUS Sportsbook. Look for the NFL betting lines to stabilize right around there from now until kickoff unless there’s late breaking injury or COVID news.
- Game: Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)
- Location: Raymond James Stadium
- Day/Time: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
- Television: FOX
Philadelphia Eagles vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFC Wild Card 2022
Tampa Bay Has Too Many Weapons
Even with Chris Godwin injured and Antonio Brown “no longer a Buc,” the Buccaneers have a lot of pass-catching options for Brady to utilize, as well as rushing options for Byron Leftwich to turn to out of the backfield. Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski have been great lately while Cyril Grayson has become a trusted target for Brady.
It also should be noted that the Buccaneers have lost just once since Nov. 14 and that was against the New Orleans Saints, who apparently are Brady’s kryptonite. Other than that game (and a shaky first-half performance against the New York Jets), Tampa Bay hasn’t really missed a beat despite all the injuries with which the Buccaneers have had to deal.
Also, the running back room is getting healthier with Leonard Fournette and Giovani Bernard expected to return from injury, although Ronald Jones is not expected to play. Tampa Bay has a lot of backs to plug and play in different situations. If you’re making NFL predictions, expect the Buccaneers to score a lot of points against the Eagles’ 18th-ranked scoring defense.
Could Be Tough for Eagles to Run
It’s not a stretch to say that Philadelphia depends heavily on its running game. The Eagles are second in the NFL in rush attempts and 32nd in pass attempts. They also run the ball extremely well as they lead the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns and are fourth in yards per carry.
Of course, a lot of that success comes from Hurts’ speed and agility. Teams have to respect his strong arm so there is often a lot of room in the middle of the field for him to exploit with his legs. Philadelphia also does a good job of balancing carries between guys like Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell. Sanders is questionable for Sunday’s game with a hand injury.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, Tampa Bay’s run defense is one of the best in football. The Buccaneers have given up the third-fewest rushing yards and fifth-fewest rushing touchdowns.
Tampa Bay’s reputation precedes itself, in a way, as opponents have only run the ball 366 times against the Buccaneers because of the imposing defensive line of Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea and Jason Pierre-Paul and the hard-hitting linebacker duo of Lavonte David and Devin White.
So, the Eagles might have to resort to throwing the ball more because of how stout Tampa Bay is against the run. It’s a strength versus strength matchup and it’s one that will be tough for Philadelphia to win.
Tampa Bay Should Roll
If you’re betting online, you should take the Buccaneers to cover the spread. The Eagles did well to take care of business against a weak schedule, but they went 0-6 against playoff teams during the regular season. Tampa Bay has the top passing offense in the league as well as a top-10 defense, so the Buccaneers are much better than the likes of the New York Giants, Washington Football Team and the other non-contenders feasted on by the Eagles.
Hurts is also a little banged-up right now, which makes matters even worse for Philadelphia. A spread of 9½ points is high, for sure, but if there’s a team to cover such a spread, it’s the Buccaneers and their No. 2 scoring offense.