WHERE: Raymond James Stadium
WHEN: Jan 16, 1:00pm ET
SPREAD: Buccaneers -8.5 | O/U 49
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Wild Card round, Tampa coming in as the number two seed while the Eagles find themselves with the seven seed. The Eagles won six of their last eight games to make the playoffs, while averaging 27.1 points per game (PPG) during that stretch. Tampa is currently on a three-game winning streak and have won seven of their last eight, averaging 29 PPG in that span.
Tampa has played really well despite some major injuries to key players since week 15. They have been without Chris Godwin, Leonard Fournette, Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaq Barrett, and Lavonte David. With all of those starters being out they still managed to finish the year 3-0, scoring an average of 33.6 PPG and only allowing 15.6 PPG. Tampa does get some good injury news finally, as all the above players are expected to be back except for Godwin, although Lavonte David will be a game time decision.
This game will be a battle of strengths as the Eagles claim the league's best rush offense at 159.7 rush yards per game. Tampa owns the league's third best rush defense, they were best in the league most of the season until suffering those three big injuries in the front seven of the defense. With the absences of David, Barrett, and Pierre-Paul, Tampa was giving up an average of 112.7 rushing yards per game. That is 21 yards over their season average of 91.4. Teams were taking advantage of the young players who filled in, they struggled to set the edge and that’s where teams found success. Eagles QB Jalen Hurts is the Eagles leading rusher with 784 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.
These two teams played each other week 6 in Philadelphia and Tampa took the win 22-28. Even with Brady missing two of his best weapons in Godwin and Brown, this offense hasn’t suffered as you’d expect. It’s actually allowed Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski to get the attention and targets they both deserve. Evans has averaged seven targets per game since he returned from injury scoring three touchdowns in two games. While Gronk has averaged 126 yards per game and 10 targets in that same span.
With Tampa set to return so many key players and the current form that they find themselves in, I like Tampa to cover the -8.5. The Bucs have been on fire at home all year boasting a 7-1 record here at Raymond James. Tampa scores an average of 33.3 PPG at home, that’s good for second best in the NFL. While only allowing 17.1 PPG, also good for second best in the league. Tampa has scored at least 30 points in every home game this season, with the exception of the shut out by the Saints. Now with reinforcements on the way I expect Tampa to shut down the Eagles run game and put this game away in the second half.
Playoff pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers -8.5 points.