Raymond James Stadium, 1pmEst/6pmUK, FOX
The Philadelphia Eagles travel to the reigning and defending Super Bowl champions with aspirations of causing the greatest shock of the Wildcard round. When the two met earlier in the season, the Bucs controlled the proceedings from start to finish in a 28-22 win. However, Nick Sirianni and co have found their identity. They are a run-first offense that has dominated on the ground since Week 8, and that laid out the foundations for an exciting end of season run that led to a postseason berth. The Bucs convincingly won the NFC South despite losing twice to the New Orleans Saints. Despite the injuries and Antonio Brown situation, they ended the season strong with a 13-4 record.
Buccaneers- Huge news broke on Saturday afternoon as Leonard Fournette was not taken off of the injured reserve in time for the game. The Buccaneers will be without their top two running backs as Ronald Jones was confirmed out with an ankle injury.
However, they did activate leading linebacker Lavonte David off of IR in time for the game. They also activated Giovani Bernard just in time, so he will likely be carrying the load on Sunday. Cyril Grayson will be out, just after becoming one of Brady's new favourite weapons. The two other big names on the Bucs injury report are Sean Murphy-Bunting (back) and Carlton Davis (hamstring). Both starting corners carrying knocks could be crucial to the Eagles chances on Sunday. It will be a massive plus for Jalen Hurts and DeVonta Smith to not have both corners at 100%.
Eagles- The greatest worry for the Eagles during the week was the health of Josh Sweat. It was reported that he was dealing with a life-threatening situation earlier in the week. He was confirmed as out for the game late on Sunday morning.
Nate Herbig is also struggling with an ankle injury, which kept him out of Friday's practice which is not a great sign. However, excluding those two names the Eagles appear to be fairly healthy, with Jalen Hurts' ankle nearing 100% after the week off in Week 18.
Prediction- Eagles 30-27 Buccaneers
This is all presuming that Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon realises that the Bucs are shorthanded in key areas of the offense and that he plays aggressive. As we have seen from Brady, despite the lack of vital options, he has still been able to score points. It will be up to Gannon to be aggressive in his play-calling to get Brady off of the field as often as possible. As we have seen in games against the best quarterbacks all season, Gannon has played soft and weak coverages, which have allowed the Eagles' opponent's to march down the field with ease. That cannot happen on Sunday of all days. Darius Slay needs to travel with Mike Evans and let the other two corners do their jobs.
If the Eagles can limit the Buccaneers scoring opportunities and keep a good balance on offense, they have every chance of winning. They will come into the day with all of their running backs good to go, so that is crucial for the NFL's leading rushing attack. What is even more significant is that the Bucs have trended towards one of the weaker run defenses in the NFL over recent weeks. Something the Eagles must exploit. They can be competitive on a defense that struggles at times. There are issues in the Buccaneers armour, and the Eagles need to exploit them as often as possible. I have faith that Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts are capable of doing so.
Johnny- 24-20 Buccaneers (reverse psychology)
Chip- 27-24 Eagles
Mike B- 28-24 Buccaneers
Adam- 41-33 Eagles
Chris- 27-19 Eagles
Sam- 30-27 Eagles
Frank- 27-24 Eagles