Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue their pursuit of a second straight trip to the Super Bowl as they open up the postseason against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at 65,800-seater Raymond James Stadium. We take a closer look at the key betting tips and make our pick.
Despite finishing the regular season with three wins in a row, Tampa Bay enters the playoffs with some lingering question marks. A 41-17 demolition of the Carolina Panthers in Week 18 was a useful tune-up, but Tom Brady will be spearheading a depleted offense on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia rested key starters last weekend, including Jalen Hurts, who has had an extra week to shake off an ankle injury. Expect Brady to make enough plays to avoid an upset here, but the Eagles’ defense is capable of keeping the score close.
In terms of offensive playmakers, the Buccaneers had an embarrassment of riches for most of the season but now find themselves without Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown heading into Wildcard Weekend. Leonard Fournette is likely to return from a hamstring in time for this matchup but he may need to be eased back in.
That will mean busy afternoons for Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski, who combined for 226 receiving yards and two touchdowns against the Panthers. But look for Philadelphia to prioritize those matchups (including Darius Slay on Evans) and force Brady to turn to less experienced receivers.
Defensively, Tampa Bay has been flattered by facing weak opponents over the past few weeks yet has still looked shaky at times. That unit is banged up too, but Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul have a shot at returning here. While the Eagles are unlikely to take a string of deep shots, the Buccaneers could be in trouble if they allow Hurts to settle.
The Eagles feasted on a favorable schedule to win six out of seven before their backups lost to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 18. Now their multi-layered ground game comes face-to-face with one of the NFL’s top run defenses - the Buccaneers allowed just 92.5 rushing yards per game this season.
But Philadelphia (0-7 against this year’s playoff teams) is unlikely to shy away from that. With Hurts healthy and optimism that Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard will both be available, the Eagles have a formula for controlling the clock with long drives. The threat of speedster Devonta Smith should keep Tampa Bay off-balance.
The visitors got several important players back from the reserve/COVID list this week, including difference-maker Fletcher Cox. Facing Brady is always a step up in quality, but Philadelphia’s defense has made huge strides over the second half of the season.
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