November 17, 2015
The Philadelphia Eagles upcoming game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is no longer the layup we all thought it would be, especially after the two wildly opposing results these teams found on Sunday.
Much like the Eagles a week before, the Bucs secured a last-second win over the hapless Dallas Cowboys, thanks in large part to some late-game heroics -- but not without drama -- from rookie quarterback Jameis Winston. But the one thing that immediately jumped out following the Bucs' win was how differently they -- both the players and media -- categorized the win.
“Fluky – you took the word right out of my mouth,” second-year WR Mike Evans said. “Fluky endings and we finally won one. This helps us a lot.”
For the Eagles, it was a big win over a division rival. For Tampa, it was a "fluky" win over an "awful" Cowboys team.
Here's what columnist Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times wrote following the Bucs' 10-6 win over Dallas:
Okay, at some point it should be pointed out that the Cowboys offense without injured quarterback Tony Romo runs like a jalopy. Seriously, it's awful. Sunday, curious play-calling, no imagination, no running game and the expected pedestrian play from backup quarterback Matt Cassel helped the Bucs a-plenty. [tampabay.com]
It immediately made me realize just how much we blew the Birds' OT win out of proportion. That was not a good team the Eagles beat in Week 9, and the fact that it took them more than 60 minutes to get the job done is a testament to just how mediocre Chip Kelly's team has been this season.
It makes you wonder why we all thought the Miami Dolphins would be a pushover.
But after letting a 13-point lead evaporate and losing starting quarterback Sam Bradford to injury, we're not likely to make the same mistake this week when Winston and the Bucs roll into Lincoln Financial Field.
Here's a look at what the Tampa media is saying about their team's upcoming game against the Birds:
Because Bradford hasn't been that great to this point in the season, perhaps the injection of Mark Sanchez into the offense won't really change much in terms what the Bucs expect to see out of the Eagles.
So that means the Bucs get to face the Sanchize, who everyone remembers for the butt-fumble but actually put up some decent statistics last year. 198 completions on 309 attempts for 2,418 yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions is solid for a backup quarterback and those numbers are all better than what Bradford has been putting up this season.
A performance up to that level could certainly be good enough to beat the Bucs, given the struggles the Bucs have been experiencing in the secondary. Of course, the Bucs defense has also been playing better in recent weeks. As happened last year, we might be seeing a late-season improvement on defense as the Bucs get used to the scheme and the coaches' demands, and they could make Sanchez's life pretty difficult. But looking at his recent production, he's no more a walkover than Bradford would have been. [bucsnation.com]
The Bucs held Dez Bryant to just 45 yards on five receptions (12 targets)on Sunday and have held opposing quarters to an average of slightly less than 200 yards per game over the last two weeks. And they have two unheralded cornerbacks -- Sterling Moore and Jude Adjei-Barimah -- to thank for that.
The improvement is largely due to the unexpected emergence of Moore and Adjei-Barimah as responsible cover corners, allowing Smith to work from the more aggressive pages in his playbook.
Once the fifth and sixth corners on the roster, respectively, Moore and Adjei-Barimah were given the chance to start a week ago when Smith benched former starters Johnthan Banks and Mike Jenkins. The decision paid dividends when Moore intercepted Giants quarterback Eli Manning on the first play of the game and Adjei-Barimah followed up with tackle for loss on a corner blitz. [tbo.com]
Tampa held the Cowboys to just six points, but scored just 10 themselves. That offensive output won't likely be enough to win games when facing opponents that actually have their starting QB. Fortunately for Tampa, it's looking like they'll get to face an NFC East backup for the second week in a row.
There's room to show more on both sides of the ball, but the offense deserves extra attention after Sunday. Entering Week 10, momentum had been building there: Winston had gone four consecutive games without an interception, Martin had three games of at least 100 yards rushing and the offensive line had developed a strong chemistry.
But the Bucs won't beat many teams with an offensive output like they had Sunday. There might not be any ugly victories, but that doesn't mean Tampa Bay can't be more pleasing to the eye. [espn.com]
All of their pass catchers not named Mike Evans are hurt. Evans has been targeted 32 times (!!) in their last two games, but has failed to find the end zone despite racking up 16 catches (eight drops) and 278 yards.
But has anyone noticed the Bucs offense has scored only one touchdown in each of the past two games, with Winston running it into the end zone on both occasions?
What's more, the Giants and Cowboys defenses ganged up on running back Doug Martin. After three consecutive 100-yard games, Martin is averaging 3 yards per carry (29 rushes, 94 yards) over the past two weeks.
The Bucs have no Vincent Jackson, who has missed two games with a knee injury. No Louis Murphy, who is on injured reserve with a torn ACL. No tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who led the team in receiving yards and touchdowns until he went out in Week 2 with a shoulder injury. [tampabay.com]
Both the Eagles and Bucs enter this week's game at 4-5. However, only one is still in contention for a division crown. That, however, doesn't mean that Tampa isn't holding out slim hopes of a playoff birth. They have a very favorable schedule, and their toughest game, Week 17 against Carolina, could wind up being an easy win if the Panthers have the top seep locked up and rest their starters in the regular season finale. So if you thought the Eagles were the only team with something to play for on Sunday, guess again.
The Bucs have been playing better football the past couple of weeks than they did at the start of the season, and they don't have all that difficult a schedule remaining. Over the rest of the season they face the Philadelphia Eagles (4-5), the Indianapolis Colts (4-5), the Atlanta Falcons (6-3), the New Orleans Saints (4-6), the St. Louis Rams (4-5), the Chicago Bears (4-5) and the Carolina Panthers (9-0). That's only two winning teams, and one of them they've already beaten once this year.
Even better for the Bucs' chances is the fact that almost all of these are direct competitors for the NFC's second Wild Card playoff spots, meaning that every win not only helps them but hurts the rest of the NFC. [bucsnation.com]
Following their loss to the Dolphins, here's a look at how far the Eagles fell in some power rankings:
|Bleeding Green Nation||21||13||-8|
|Pro Football Focus||11||10||-1|
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin