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Xs and Os: Eagles-Buccaneers Week 14 Preview

Background/Storylines: Eagles (3-9) and Buccaneers (6-6)

Even when they play well, the Philadelphia Eagles still can’t buy a win. In last week’s 38-33 loss to the Cowboys, the offensive line, defensive line, and Nick Foles had their best games of the season not to mention a punt return for a TD by Damaris Johnson. Still, the Eagles shot themselves in the foot time and time again with blown coverages, penalties, and fumble(s). While the younger guys, namely Brandon Graham, Nick Foles and Bryce Brown, gave Eagles fans hope for the future, the defense looked as bad as ever. They were once again shredded by the opposing offense, giving up 31 points (other seven came on a fumble return for a touchdown) and over 420 yards of total offense. One of the only bright spots this year, kicker Alex Henery, broke the team record for most made field goals in a row but it was all for nought.

Unlike the Eagles, the Tampa Bay Bucaneers have overachieved in 2012. After last year’s 4-12 disappointment, the Bucs were left for dead in a strong AFC South. Thanks to bad years from the Saints and Panthers, however, Tampa is tied for second in the NFC South and is only one game back from a Wild Card spot. A lot of that has been a result of their balanced offensive attack, which features Vincent Jackson (1014 yards, 7 touchdowns) and Mike Williams (718 yards, 6 touchdowns) in the passing game and rookie Doug Martin (1106 yards, 9 touchdowns) in their rushing attack. The improvement of quarterback Josh Freeman has also allowed the offense to flourish, as the Bucs average 27.8 points per game, good for fourth in the league. The defense, however, has been simply mediocre. Their run defense has been very good, but nothing can stop the bleeding from their 32nd-ranked pass defense which gives up over 300 yards per game.

Fantasy Watch: Riley Cooper (PHI) and Doug Martin (TB)

Riley Cooper has started to emerge as one of Foles’ top third-down targets, catching 5 balls for 31 yards and a touchdown against Dallas. As the two continue to develop chemistry, Cooper’s number of targets in the red zone will continue to go up; he is the only big receiver the Eagles can go to consistently in the red zone. If you need an WR3 in a somewhat deep league, look no further than Cooper.

My projected stats for Cooper: 68 yards, 1 touchdown (12.8 points)

Doug Martin has been a blessing for the Buccaneers this year, transforming a mediocre rushing attack into one to be reckoned with. His tough running style is one the Eagles will have trouble dealing with, considering the fact that Eagles’ defensive backs are some of the worst tacklers in the league. Expect Martin to break a couple of big runs on the way to a solid fantasy performance.

My projected stats for Martin: 108 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns, 19 yards receiving (24.7 points)

Key Matchup: DeMeco Ryans (LB) vs Doug Martin (RB)

The Eagles will need to focus on stopping the Bucs’ rushing attack, because if they can’t do that they won’t be able to keep Tampa under 30 points. Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams will have their way with the Eagles secondary if Todd Bowles needs to focus evenly on stopping the run and the pass, so big plays early from Fletcher Cox and DeMeco Ryans will be key. Once Martin gets past the line of scrimmage he’s a pinball, knocking defenders left and right with his tough rushing style.¬†Ryans has been very good at getting upfield and clogging the line, something he’ll need to do against Martin if he wants to keep him from breaking big runs left and right.

X-Factor: Nick Foles (PHI) and Michael Bennett (TB)

In a game that doesn’t necessarily matter, the Eagles will be looking to the future, and the future might be quarterback Nick Foles. Foles rebounded from a poor first effort last week against Dallas, going 22-for-34 (64.7 percent) for 251 yards and a touchdown. He’s still having trouble looking down his receivers, and he was lucky not to be intercepted a couple of times by Dallas’ defensive backs. If Foles can improve his ability to read defenses and look off his receivers, the Eagles could have their man. If he can’t, quarterback will be another position they look to replace within a year or two.

Bennett has been the Bucs’ top pass-rusher all season, and with his secondary’s struggles, he will need to get to Foles as often as possible. The Eagles offensive line looked much better last week, but they’ve shown no consistency all season. Foles has shown that he struggles under pressure, so if Bennett can get to his blind side early in the game, Foles will be forced into more three-step drops which will limit the vertical danger of the Eagles’ passing game.

Eagles vs Buccaneers

Prediction: Buccaneers 34, Eagles 24

The Eagles have shown nothing to say that their defense can stop anyone, so even if Foles and Bryce Brown have solid games, it won’t be enough to outscore the Bucs’ balanced attack. The Bucs run all over the Eagles’ defense on their way to 34-24 win.

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Categories: Eagles, Editorial

Author:Manav Khandelwal

I am the founder of Khandyman Sports, and follow all Philadelphia pro sports teams religiously. I also write for the Hoop76, covering the Sixers for ESPN, and am a credentialed Flyers reporter for Main Line Media News.

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One Comment on “Xs and Os: Eagles-Buccaneers Week 14 Preview”

  1. December 9, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    The Eagles have seen their season become a comedy of errors , and whose management have become devoid of intelligence . Foles should be given the chance to steer this team but in reality , while Vick remains with that franchise there will be continued disarray within their midst . How is it that Andy Reid refused to acknowledge the fact that the veteran quarterback has a declining skillset ?

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