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Eagles-Buccaneers Preview: It's Going To Be Ugly

Updated on October 12, 2013

Talk about a matchup of opposites. The Eagles have a high-powered offense (ranked 2nd overall) but a terrible defense (ranked 31st overall) that can't stop anybody. Meanwhile, the Bucs have an anemic offense (ranked 31st overall) and a good defense (ranked 13th overall).

Sure the Bucs are winless at 0-4, but it's not like the Eagles are among the NFL's elite with their 2-3 record. Besides, the Bucs aren't as bad as their record may suggest. Three of their four loses have come by a total of six points and two of those were on last-second field goals.

Shaggy and Nick Foles: Separated at Birth?
Shaggy and Nick Foles: Separated at Birth? | Source

Eagles Offense Versus Bucs Defense

The big story in this game isn't the MRSA scare in the Tampa locker room; it's the injury to Michael Vick that will keep him out of this game. That means that Nick Foles will get his first start of the year. Foles led the Eagles to victory last week and his only win last season was against this very Bucs team. Foles is more of a pocket passer than Vick, so although he is no threat to run, he is the more accurate passer.

Of course, the Eagles' offensive line will need to do a better job of protecting Foles than they have been doing so far this season. LT Jason Peters doesn't look like the same player he was prior to the Achilles injury and RT Lane Johnson looks every bit like the rookie that he is. If Johnson can't dominate former Eagles' draft bust, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, then it might be time to question that pick. The interior isn't much better, with Todd Herremans looking like he's running out of gas. The Bucs don't have an elite pass-rusher, but what they do have is the most underrated trio of linebackers in the league. Lavote David leads the team with 3 sacks from the weak side. Dekota Watson is the strong-side LB and Mason foster patrols the middle.

DeSean Jackson has been talking smack about being faster that Bucs' CB Darelle Revis, and while that may be true, I fully expect Revis to completely shut Jackson down. If Revis isn't the best CB in the NFL, then he's at least top 3. And since the Eagles don't have another legitimate receiving threat on the entire roster, I expect them to even keep a safety over the top of Jackson for a good portion of the game. The Bucs still play some of their old "Tampa 2" zone, which leaves both safeties back deep, but they won't have to bother with that much in this game.

What the Bucs will concentrate on is stopping the Eagles' NFL-leading running game and the NFL's leading rusher, LeSean McCoy. Some people speculated that the reason the Eagles couldn't run the ball in the second half against the Giants last week is because there was no threat of Foles running. While that might have been part of it, the bigger part was that C Jason Kelce got his ass handed to him last week by the interior of the Giants D-line. Now this week he has to face Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy, who will line up between Kelce and Herremans. Expect the McCoys to be meeting a lot in the Eagles backfield on Sunday. Of course, that shouldn't stop Eagles coach Chip Kelly from running the ball with McCoy. You don't stop what you do best, even against the NFL's 9th ranked run defense that hasn't allowed a rushing TD all year. I expect to see Bucs' safety Dashon Goldson sneaking up to play the run all day.

As Bad as it Gets

  • Bucs ranked 31st in NFL in total offense
  • Eagles ranked 31st overall in NFL in total defense.
  • Bucs ranked last in NFL in passing offense.
  • Eagles ranked 29th in NFL in pass defense.

Bucs Offense Versus Eagles Defense

On the other side of the ball, the Bucs are starting a rookie at quarterback, making only his second NFL start. Mike Glennon takes over after the Bucs released former starter Josh Freeman in one of the ugliest divorces in NFL history.

Even though the Bucs rank last or next to last in every single offensive category, it can't be blamed solely on Glennon. He's a rookie that will make mistakes, but he has ideal size at 6-foot-6, 232 pounds. The Eagles will look to do the same thing against him that they did against Eli Manning last week; apply pressure and try to force turnovers. Unfortunately, not every quarterback turns the ball over at the historic pace that Manning is setting this season.

Glennon's receivers are good, but not great. Vincent Jackson is 6-foot-5 and will be hard for the Eagles sub-par secondary to cover. Of course, every single receiver in the NFL seems to be hard for the Eagles secondary to cover. The Eagles pass defense is ranked 29th on merit. The only other receiving option on the Tamp roster is Mike Williams, but with Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams at CB, he might just have a breakout game. Hakeem Nicks was having a poor season for the Giants before dropping a 9-catch, 142-yard performance on the hapless Eagles secondary. The Eagles have allowed the most catches, yardage and TDs to wide receivers in the entire NFL. Patrick Chung is listed as probable after missing the last two games, but is he really an upgrade over rookie Earl Wolff?

Bucs' LG Carl Nicks is one of those players with MRSA, so he may not play. Against another team, that may affect the Bucs offense. Unfortunately, the Eagles defensive line isn't even mediocre. NT Isaac Sopoaga is getting pushed around and Fletcher Cox looks completely out of place as a 3-4 end. Ditto DeMeco Ryans as a 3-4 LB. Mychal Kendricks showed promise last season, but seems lost this season. And the next sack Trent Cole gets as an outside linebacker will be his first.

The best player on the Bucs is RB Doug Martin. Martin rushed for 1,454 yards as a rookie last season, which was fifth-best in the NFL. Last season he averaged 4.6 yards per carry, but he's only getting 3.4 yards per carry this season. With the spotty QB play for the Bucs, defenses have been keying on stopping Martin and the Eagles will be no different. That hasn't stopped the Bucs from continuing to feed Martin the ball, as he leads the NFL with 100 carries. That's even more impressive when you consider that Tampa has already had their bye. Expect the Bucs to feature Martin to keep the pressure off their young QB once again.

Who will be the leading rusher on Sunday in Tampa?

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The best player on the Bucs is RB Doug Martin. Martin rushed for 1,454 yards as a rookie last season, which was fifth-best in the NFL. Last season he averaged 4.6 yards per carry, but he's only getting 3.4 yards per carry this season. With the spotty QB play for the Bucs, defenses have been keying on stopping Martin and the Eagles will be no different. That hasn't stopped the Bucs from continuing to feed Martin the ball, as he leads the NFL with 100 carries. That's even more impressive when you consider that Tampa has already had their bye. Expect the Bucs to feature Martin to keep the pressure off their young QB once again.

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Not So Special Teams

Both teams field ugly special teams units. Alex Henery made all five of his field goals last week, but he missed one in each of the three games before that and he isn't getting touchbacks on his kickoffs nearly enough. Tampa kicker Rian Lindell isn't much better, but punter Michael Koenen has only had five of his 24 punts returned. Eagles punter Donnie Jones is 28th in net average and the Eagles are 31st in the league in kickoff coverage. Like I said, ugly.

Schiano and Freeman - BFFs No more?
Schiano and Freeman - BFFs No more? | Source

Coaches

The Eagles have a rookie head coach making rookie mistakes, but looks like the better option with Bucs coach Greg Schiano putting up the Big Top and bringing the circus to town. The Freeman debacle might just have been the last straw for Schiano, who won't last this entire season in Tampa.

The Prediction

The Bucs aren't as bad as their 0-4 record, but they aren't very good either. They are starting a rookie QB making only his second NFL start and they are 31st in the NFL in scoring. Of course, the Eagles defense is also ranked 31st and I actually think they are worse than that. The best way to rattle a rookie quarterback is put pressure on him, but the Eagles can't generate much of a pass rush. The difference in this one will be which young QB takes care of the ball better.

The Eagles win, but it's going to be ugly.

Eagles 23 - Bucs 17

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