Tampa Bay Buccaneers
On a prime-time stage, The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face the defending NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night. The highly-anticipated contest will mark the NFL’s only battle of undefeated teams in the Week Three rundown. The clash at Raymond James Stadium is part of a Monday Night Football double header, as the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals will kick off on the same night. The Buccaneers enter the upcoming matchup with an “all hands on deck” mentality, as a roster-wide contribution will be needed to upset the NFC powerhouse. Tampa Bay will have to play fundamentally sound, disciplined football in Monday’s litmus test. With a talent-filled cast on the rise, the Buccaneers will strive to use the national stage to silence doubters. After a week of preparation, here is what the showdown comes down to:
4 Stats That Matter
- The Buccaneers have allowed 17.0 points per game through two games in 2023 (allowed 21.1 points per game in 2022). Tampa Bay has accumulated five takeaways this season.
- Jalen Hurts has a 119.4 passer rating against the blitz in 2023 (82.7 rating versus non-blitz). Tampa Bay has blitzed on 39.3 percent of opposing dropbacks in 2023 (fifth-highest in the NFL).
- The Buccaneers have allowed the second-fewest rush yards per game in 2023 (54.0). Only the Eagles have allowed fewer rush yards per game (52.0).
- Over the first two NFL games in 2023, Eagles’ Jalen Carter is averaging the fastest pass-rush get-off speed (0.78 seconds) among all defensive tackles with 50-plus pass rush snaps this season. His teammate, Fletcher Cox, is averaging the third-best get-off among defensive tackles (0.86).
3 Lineup Notes
- The Buccaneers had five players on their injury report to begin Week Three, and all five are on the defensive side of the ball. Three of the five were players who missed the team’s Week Two matchup against Chicago – cornerback Carlton Davis III (toe), linebacker SirVocea Dennis (hamstring) and defensive lineman Calijah Kancey (calf). On Saturday’s final injury report, rookies Dennis and Kancey were ruled out for Monday’s meeting and Davis was listed as questionable. Todd Bowles confirmed on Saturday following practice that Davis will be a “game-time” decision.
- Three additional starters made it onto the injury report this week, including Ryan Neal who has injuries to both his ribs and his knee, defensive lineman Vita Vea who is dealing with a pectoral issue and inside linebcaker Devin White (groin). Neal became a full participant on Friday and Saturday, however White and Vea were able to take part in practice on Friday and Saturday, but only in a limited fashion. With Kancey, the team’s first-round draft pick, already ruled out for Monday night’s game against Philadelphia, any limitation to Vea would be a huge blow for the Bucs’ defense. Vea, Davis and White, along with guard Cody Mauch, were listed as questionable for the Week Three matchup.
- For Philadelphia, running back Boston Scott (concussion) and wide receiver Quez Watkins (hamstring) were ruled out. Watkins did not participate in practice this week and Olamide Zaccheaus will likely see an increase in snaps as the team’s WR3 behind Smith and Brown come Monday night.
2 Challenges Presented by the Eagles
The Eagles will travel to Tampa Bay with a star-studded cast on the offensive side of the football. Jalen Hurts, their prized dual-threat quarterback who finished second in MVP voting in 2022, presents a challenge when he breaks contain. Hurts has stellar improvisation skills and is a lethal threat using his legs. The unit boasts a two-headed monster at receiver with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith – who both eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving threshold last season – and reliable pass-catching tight end Dallas Goedert, who is adept at finding voids in zone coverage to exploit. In 2022, Hurts threw for 3,701 yards and 22 touchdowns while scoring 13 times on the ground and rushing for 760 yards. The Eagles’ offense is predicated on running the football in an RPO-centric system with play-action, gap/zone schemes, traps and counters. The key for Tampa Bay’s defense will be to try and force Philadelphia to be one-dimensional with a pass-heavy script. The Bucs’ run defense ranks second in the NFL through two weeks (allowing just 54.0 rushing yards a game) and this week, it faces the toughest challenge yet on the 2023 slate. In Week Two against the Vikings, D’Andre Swift produced the highest single-game rushing total by an Eagles’ back since LeSean McCoy in 2013. He posted 259 yards on the day, igniting their offensive onslaught. The Eagles averaged 5.4 yards per carry while rushing for three touchdowns in the win over Minnesota. The Bucs will have to be disciplined in their run fits and in setting the edge because Hurts is an intelligent escape artist with elite off-platform instincts.
Defensively, the Eagles became the first team in NFL history to have four players with double-digit sacks in the same season (2022) and they accomplished the featbefore the 17th game, with Haason Reddick (16), Javon Hargrave (11), Josh Sweat (11) and Brandon Graham (11) spearheading the charge. Fletcher Cox joined the mix, finishing fifth on the team with 7.0, the most he had accumulated since 2018 (10.5). The defense works hand-in-hand with the offense, emboldening the team. Because of the defense’s prowess, Philadelphia never falls behind to the extent of being forced to abandon the run. The Eagles’ front-line produced a league-high 70 sacks and although the unit lost Pro Bowler Javon Hargrave to the 49ers in free agency, the club added an influx of speed via the 2023 NFL Draft, including Jalen Carter in the first round. Carter routinely gets upfield with quick burst off the line as does veteran pass-rush phenom Haason Reddick off the edge. Keeping Baker Mayfield upright and giving him adequate time to deliver the ball will be paramount this weekend. This matchup will likely hinge upon the trenches for the Buccaneers and ball security will be crucial.
1 Key Thought from Baker Mayfield
On Eagles’ pass rush:
“Their front seven – they’re a special defense, they have been for the last few years for a reason. It’s those guys. Obviously, it starts with the interior guys. They’ve got great edge rushers who had tremendous years last year. We’re aware of that, we’re going to be ready for it. They get paid, too. They’re going to have good plays, we’re going to have bad plays. You’ve just got to adjust and go off that. It’s about handling the little bumps in the road throughout the game and making sure we get the last punch.”
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