September 14, 2018
The Philadelphia Eagles picked up a sloppy win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1, and after a long off week thanks to a Thursday night season opener, the Birds will travel to Tampa Bay to face another team that's 1-0 with its backup quarterback, the Bucs.
For the Bucs, it's a suspension keeping starter Jameis Winston sidelined for the first month of the season, but as they showed in a 48-point outburst against the Saints in Week 1, backup Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mike Evans and the rest of Tampa's offense is more than capable of handling the job.
In the opener, the Eagles may not have looked as offensively potent as their upcoming opponent, but their defense stole the show, holding Atlanta to just 12 points (after holding them to 10 in the playoffs back in January). And you can bet Jim Schwartz is going to try for a repeat performance on the road on Sunday.
Can they deliver? We'll have to wait and see. But, in the meantime, here's a look at how our sports staff sees the action unfolding this weekend in Tampa...
TV: FOX | RADIO: 94.1 WIP
SPREAD: Eagles (-3.5) | TOTAL: 44 (via Bovada)
The Bucs could be missing both of their starting corners, as Vernon Hargreaves was placed on IR, and Brent Grimes still hasn't practiced as a result of a groin injury. They could also be without Eagle-killing WR DeSean Jackson (concussion), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (knee), and DT Vita Vea (calf), all of whom did not practice on Wednesday. The Eagles, meanwhile, will be getting an important player back in Nigel Bradham.
It's projected to be 91 degrees and humid in Tampa on Sunday. You'd think that would work in the Bucs' favor, since they play there, but it won't. The Eagles have the deepest defensive line in the NFL, and have the advantage of rotating their personnel. You know, throwing fastballs, and whatnot. The Eagles should be well-positioned to take control of this matchup in the second half when fatigue sets in.
Also, the Eagles are just a far better team, so there's that.
This is an Eagles win, but the margin will be an interesting one. Before their 48-40 shootout win over the Saints in Week 1, I'd have picked the Birds by two touchdowns but the potent offense shown by Tampa will probably be able to score a bit on Philly. After all, this is a team that allowed 169 yards from Julio Jones in Week 1 going against Mike Evans, who had 147 against the Saints last week, in Week 2.
If Nick Foles can find rhythm against the clearly much less talented Bucs defense, the Eagles should be fine. I see Philly winning this one 34-21.
I've seen Ryan Fitzpatrick look like he looked in Week 1 before. I've also seen Ryan Fitzpatrick look absolutely horrendous before. Wait, that sounds like another quarterback I know...
I think Jim Schwartz is going to unleash hell on Fitzpatrick and the Bucs this weekend. With an impressive run-stopping unit, the Eagles defense should be able to force the Bucs to throw the ball. And when that happens, Schwartz is typically able to draw up some well-timed blitzes that allow his defense to create turnovers and sack opposing quarterbacks. I don't see any 48-point performances in this one.
On the other side of the ball, expect to see a more fluid Eagles offense. And considering the Bucs let up 40 points of their own in Week 1, who's to say Foles and company can't go off for a big day? I'll temper my expectations slightly with just 27 total points for the Eagles, but I could see it going quite a bit higher than that.
Yes, the Bucs dropped a cool 48 points on the Saints last week, surprising analysts and killing a lot of eliminator pool picks in the process. No, I would not bank on a Ryan Fitzpatrick led team duplicating that feat in Week 2.
Even if Fitzpatrick somehow stays hot, the Eagles’ defense is far better equipped than the Saints were to junk the game up and slow the tempo down. And though Nick Foles struggled in Week 1, facing a defense that gave up 40 points of their own last week should be the perfect kickstart for his season. Assuming Doug Pederson was being truthful about featuring Jay Ajayi as the lead back, the Eagles have already proved they can run the ball with authority when they want to, which will take pressure off the backup QB to do it all himself.
Maybe this confidence is misplaced, but I just think the Eagles are a significantly better team. That tends to lead to comfortable victories.
I just can't see Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing for over 400 yards and four TDs against the Eagles, as he did in the season opener against New Orleans. I received a lesson last week on just how dominant and physical the Eagles' offensive and defensive lines are.
That dominance will once again shine this Sunday when the Eagles get out early, with Tampa Bay throwing in a cosmetic TD late to make it look closer than the game actually was.
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