The Philadelphia Eagles are 2-0, albeit after a pair of fairly ugly wins against much inferior teams in the Patriots and Vikings. I am not panicking on the Eagles yet, but realistically they are going to have to look a lot more like the 2022 version of themselves at some point if they want to repeat as NFC Champions.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, meanwhile, are also 2-0, thanks in large part to a surprisingly great first two games for Baker Mayfield. I have never been a Mayfield fan at all, so much so that I frankly thought Tampa would be in contention for the first overall pick this year. That now appears to be out of the discussion, as the Bucs defense has allowed just 34 points in 2 games while Mayfield has completed 69% of his passes for 490 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions through 2 games. Mike Evans has dominated out of the gate in his contract year, and Chris Godwin continues to be a reliable receiver in the short and intermediate parts of the field. They also still have some good household name players on defense including Lavonte David, Devin White, Carlton Davis, and Antoine Winfield Jr. Even without Tom Brady, it feels as if Tampa is going to be right in the thick of the NFC South race this season.
Are the Buccaneers better than the Eagles as a whole? Certainly not. However, Tampa has some advantages in this game that I think are key. Avonte Maddox appears to be out for the season with a torn pectoral, leaving the slot vulnerable if the Bucs choose to slide Evans or Godwin inside on occasion (they should). The Eagles’ pass defense as a whole has also been quite suspect to open the season, allowing the most passing touchdowns and second most passing yards thus far. While they have done a good job shutting the run game down early to make their opponents one dimensional, the inability to slow down the passing attack afterwards allowed the Patriots and Vikings to stay in the game until the end. Tampa’s rush offense has been impotent in recent years, and that has remained the case to open 2023 (just 2.9 yards per carry), so the Eagles should not have much trouble making the Bucs one-dimensional as well. Whether they can contain Evans and Godwin later in the game will be imperative in wrapping up the win earlier than they have done.
Jalen Hurts and the Eagles offense are still kind of finding their sea legs to open the season, and the defense is fairly banged up right now. In a stadium the Eagles have struggled in recent memory, this feels like a spot for an upset.
Prediction: Buccaneers 26, Eagles 23, Buccaneers +4.5
Photo: Delaware Online