The One X-Factor Who Must Step Up For Eagles In Wild Card vs. Buccaneers

NFL Analysis Network

The Philadelphia Eagles will be traveling to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a Wild Card matchup this weekend. It will be the second time that the teams face off this season, as they also played each other back in Week 6 on Thursday Night Football.

The Buccaneers were triumphant in that game, winning 28-22 on the road at Lincoln Financial Field. Their offensive attack will look a little different this time around, as a lot has changed for Tampa Bay’s skill positions.

The team is hopeful that Leonard Fournette, one of last season’s playoff heroes, can return to the field after spending a few weeks on IR. Antonio Brown, who led the team with nine receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown in the first matchup, is no longer on the team. Chris Godwin tore his ACL in Week 15 against the New Orleans Saints.

So, the Buccaneers will be a little more shorthanded, but as long as Tom Brady is under center, they will have a good chance to win the game. He is not left with zero weapons, as he still has Mike Evans at wide receiver and old reliable Rob Gronkowski at tight end.

Philadelphia’s defense will have their hands full trying to slow down the Buccaneers’ offense. Even without their full allotment of weapons, they are still dangerous as Brady can succeed with anyone catching his passes as long as he has trust in them.

Not many people are giving the Eagles a great chance of winning this game. They have the second biggest spread of Wild Card weekend, as Tampa Bay is favored by 8.5 points. Only the Kansas City Chiefs, who are favored by 12.5 over the Pittsburgh Steelers, have a wider spread.

If Philadelphia wants any chance of winning this game, they will have to slow things down and play a ball-control style, keeping Brady and the Buccaneers’ offense off the field. Executing that game plan will be challenging, which makes Jalen Hurts the X-Factor in this game for the Eagles.

Hurts had a solid first season as the full-time starting quarterback, but he can still be a little erratic throwing the ball. He faced off against a playoff team five times this season; the Las Vegas Raiders, Buccaneers, Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers. The Eagles went 0-5 in those games.

Hurts wasn’t great in those games, registering a QBR of 39.8, which is below average. Against the Bucs, he failed to complete even half of his pass attempts. That cannot happen again if the Eagles want to pull off the upset.

He is going to have to make some plays with his arm, but it is the running game that will truly decide this outcome. Philadelphia has rounded into shape as the best rushing team in the NFL. Hurt is a big reason for that success, racking up 784 yards himself on the ground.

Overall, the Eagles ran for 2,715 yards, with Hurts leading the way and Miles Sanders right behind him with 754. However, they will be going up against the best rush defense in the NFL, led by Vita Vea.

Whoever can win that battle in the trenches will put their team in a great position to win the game. For the Eagles, they will be relying on the legs of Hurts to help set the tone for the rest of their offense. If they can find some early success on the ground, it should open things up for the passing game.