September 15, 2018
Let's do an experiment, shall we?
Close your eyes and imagine two teams preparing for the second game of a football season. Team A is coming off a big road win against a divisional rival many were expecting to contend for the Super Bowl this year. Team B, on the other hand, barely squeaked out a win at home in its opener, and now has to travel to Team A's stadium for their home opener.
Furthermore, both teams are playing with their backup quarterbacks — and their numbers probably aren't as different as you think.
|QB - A||59.8||1.32||1.01||80.6|
|QB - B||60.0||1.22||0.60||86.6|
Now, add the fact that QB A was 21-of-28 for 417 yards, four TDs and no interceptions in Week 1 while QB B, with six more pass attempts in his game, managed just 117, no touchdowns and an interception.
It seems like Team A might have the edge in this one, right?
Of course, the obvious caveats here are that Team B is the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles and QB B is reigning Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, while their opponents, the Buccaneers, finished just 5-11 last season — with their starter, Jameis Winston — and their backup, QB A, is 35-year-old career journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Oh, and on top of that, the Eagles boast one of the nastiest defenses in the NFL, one that is likely to give Fitzpatrick and Co. the kind of test the Saints seemed incapable of in Week 1.
We'll explore that and more in this week's edition of five over/unders:
Last week, the Bucs would've hit this number on their own, but that's not likely to happen against this Eagles defense that, not counting the Super Bowl, has allowed an average of just nine points per game over its last five games. The only way I can realistically see this game hitting the over is if the Eagles offense finds its rhythm, unlike in Week 1. After all, the Bucs did allow 40 points to the Saints in Week 1...
Still, I predicted a final score of 27-16, so I'm going to stick with the under here.
Agholor caught eight passes (on 10 targets) in Week 1, albeit for just 33 yards. With Alshon Jeffery out once again, and some young cornerbacks lining up opposite him, there's a good chance Agholor sees a ton of targets once again. Adding to that confidence is the fact that Darren Sproles will be out with a hamstring injury. Sure, some of his touches in the receiving game are going to go to Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement (more on that in a few), but it only makes sense that Agholor is the beneficiary of a few of those vacated targets, especially considering the majority of his receptions in Week 1 came at or around the line of scrimmage.
The Bucs quarterback threw four touchdowns in Week 1, but perhaps the most impressive thing about him was how efficient he was, completing 75 percent of his passes and averaging nearly 15 yards per attempt. By comparison, Foles averaged just 3.4 yards/attempt in Week 1.
But the question here is whether or not Fitzpatrick finds the end zone three or more times in this one. Considering last week was just the second time he's managed to do that since 2015, I'm going to take the under here.
I think the Eagles will be leading for much of this game, meaning the Bucs will spend much more time trying to throw the ball than running it. Couple that with an Eagles run defense that was best in the NFL last season and a quarterback who isn't much of a threat on the ground, and it's hard to envision a scenario in which the Birds allow more than 75 yards on the ground.
With Sproles out, could Clement be an X-factor for the Eagles on Sunday? It sure seems that way. He could take over a fair amount of special teams duties, and after several impressive catches last season, you've got to think the coaches (and quarterback) have faith in the second-year back from South Jersey.
Clement didn't see any targets in Week 1, but Sproles saw seven. He also ran the ball five times. That means 12 additional carries that are up for grabs.
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