The Eagles (1-0) survived a grueling opening night grapple with the Falcons, 18-12, to win for the 17th time in their last 20 games, including the postseason.
Offensively, they only scored on a pair of rushing touchdowns by Jay Ajayi and the passing game suffered without Pro Bowl wideout Alshon Jeffery, but the Falcons are an outstanding defensive team with tremendous speed on the back end.
Nick Foles, starting until Carson Wentz is fully recovered from his knee surgery, put forth a shaky stat line (117 yards, one interception) but didn’t play as poorly as the 50.7 passer rating suggests. He was victimized by several drops and an inconsistent run game that didn’t get going until after the break.
The Bucs (1-0) pulled off an opening-week shocker against the defending NFC South champion Saints, putting up 48 points behind four touchdown passes and a touchdown run from Ryan Fitzpatrick, who’s filling in for the suspended Jameis Winston for the first three weeks.
“Fitzmagic” passed for 417 yards and tossed two touchdowns of at least 50 yards, to Mike Evans and to DeSean Jackson. But the victory came with a price tag as the Bucs are licking several wounds going into this matchup against the Eagles.
The Eagles will be without Wentz and Jeffery again, and running back Darren Sproles is nursing a sore hammy. Other than those, they’re fairly healthy and welcome back starting strong-side linebacker Nigel Bradham from a one-game suspension.
The Bucs are banged up. DeSean Jackson suffered a concussion against the Saints and probably won’t suit up against his former team.
Even worse, the Bucs secondary is already in shambles with starting corner Vernon Hargreaves going on injured reserve (shoulder) and veteran Brent Grimes missing the opener with a groin injury.
If Grimes can’t make it back for Sunday, the Bucs will start backups at both corner spots, including rookie Carlton Davis. On the defensive line, Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is nursing a sore knee and first-round pick Vita Vea has been out since training camp with a quad injury.
Here are some things for NFL betting fans to consider in this matchup.
The Bucs should be improved from last year’s five-win season but not so dominant that they’ll routinely drop 48 points like they did Sunday at the Superdome against their NFC South rival Saints.
They’re beset by significant injuries, especially on defense. Fitzpatrick has a losing record (5-7) as a starter in weeks following passing efforts of 300 or more yards.
On the flip side, the Eagles have won six of their past seven road regular-season games and were 3-1 last year as road favorites.
Nick Foles is 6-0 in games he’s started and finished since taking over for an injured Carson Wentz last September, including the playoffs, and 2-0 in his career against the Bucs – both games at Raymond James Stadium – with a 111.7 passer rating.
Even if Jackson doesn’t play, and even with Wentz and Jeffery sidelined for the Eagles, look for both teams to put points on the board. The weather will be hot and steamy so expect both offenses to use tempo in attempt to exhaust the defense.
Bucs wideout Mike Evans is one of the game’s most prolific weapons, and Tampa has nice complementary pieces in wideout Chris Godwin and tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard.
The Eagles should get their passing game going against a depleted Bucs secondary. The Eagles haven’t struggled offensively on the road since the start of 2017.
Only once last year did they play a road game that didn’t produce more than 44 combined points – a 24-10 loss to Seattle, a notoriously difficult place to score. The Bucs scored at least 21 points at home five times last year in eight games.
Last week’s 18-12 defensive battle between the Eagles and Falcons still produced three touchdowns, two by the Eagles, despite disappointing passing efforts from Nick Foles and Matt Ryan.
The Eagles should be good for at least three touchdowns by themselves. The Bucs will struggle to find the end zone as much as they did against the Saints but have scored at least two touchdowns in seven of eight home games last year and three or more five of them.
Look for at least four touchdowns in this game.
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