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NFL Playoff Preview 2021-22 Wildcard: #2 Buccaneers vs #7 Eagles

NFL Playoff Preview
(John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

NFL Playoff Preview 2021-22 Wildcard: #2 Buccaneers vs #7 Eagles

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, almost, NFL Playoffs! It’s Super Wildcard Weekend and the best of the best, supposedly, enter the single-elimination tournament where the winner hoists the Lombardi Trophy. We’re giving you an NFL playoff preview for every matchup this postseason, and this one features the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the scrappy seven-seed Philadephia Eagles. This may seem like a blowout, but an upset wouldn’t surprise me that much.

How The Buccaneers Can Win

#1 Dominate, Don’t Sleep

Let your stars be stars, let your playmakers ball out. The Buccaneers shouldn’t overthink this, let Brady, Evans, and Gronk win this game on offense with the studs on defense wrecking havoc. The Buccaneers have let Brady air it out this year, as shown by his league-leading 719 pass attempts (47 more than any other quarterback) and NFL single-season record 485 pass completions (42 more than any other quarterback). That approach has worked to the tune of 13 wins, and it can definitely work to get another one. However, they can’t be caught looking ahead to next week.

#2 Protect The Ball

The Eagles are the sixth-worst team at taking the ball away and had the fifth-least giveaways. They don’t take the ball away well, but they damn sure don’t give it up. Tampa Bay has to follow this same approach, limit the giveaways because it’s unlikely that they’ll get any takeaways.

#3 Experience

When in doubt, act like you’ve been there before and you belong. The Buccaneers have playoff experience and the Eagles don’t. That’s what makes this game so intriguing because, despite matchup issues for Tampa, they have the playoff experience that the Eagles don’t when it comes to the quarterback and head coach. This is one of the true X-factors of this game.

How the Eagles Can Win

#1 Limit Mistakes

The Buccaneers rank in the top-six in taking the ball away and commit the ninth-fewest giveaways. The Eagles, as previously mentioned, struggle to take the ball away. So if they give it away, there’s a good chance they won’t get a turnover to equalize. Mistake-free, or mistake-limited football, gives Philly the best chance to win.

#2 Paint A Bullseye On Devin White (If David is out)

With Lavonte David on IR, the Eagles have to go after White. When forced to be ILB1, he’s indecisive, and undisciplined. That’s the worst possible combination, if you’re going to make mistakes at least commit to it. When I see White taking multiple unnecessary steps out of nervousness and being seemingly overwhelmed, that screams “Go after him.” Target him in coverage, force him to have to make quick decisions because he’s been second-guessing himself. As ILB, White is more of a liability than an asset, but Tampa doesn’t have anyone better if David’s out.

#3 Use. Your. Matchups.

The Eagles made the playoffs because they found out who they were (even if it took them a while to do it). They’re a pound-the-rock team with a quarterback who adds great value to that run game. Is Tampa tough to run on? Yes, because their defensive line is amazing. However, the Eagles have an equally great offensive line and if Lavonte David doesn’t play, and as far as I know when writing this he’s on IR still with a foot injury, Philly should have great success running. The lowly Panthers with their terrible offensive line outgained the Bucs on the ground, won the time of possession battle, and Chubba Hubbard averaged over five yards per carry. The Eagles played the Bucs early in the season. They had 19 total carries and 100 rushing yards (5.26 yards per attempt). David missed that game, and the Bucs narrowly won. Given a repeat matchup, I see the Eagles being smart and running the hell out of the ball. Assuming I’m doing my math right, the Buccaneers average giving up 77,15 rush yards per game when David plays, without him they give up 114 rush yards per game (game against Philly before they found themselves, THE FREAKING BEARS, two games against the Panthers without CMC, and the Jets). Tampa is in trouble without David.

The Pick

This matchup is intriguing and much more interesting than it’s getting credit for. As of now, David has not been designated to return and given the large splits in run defense with and without David, I can see Tampa Bay really struggling on defense. Philly isn’t that far removed from a Super Bowl, and they still have quite a few starters from that season on their roster. Philly doesn’t turn the ball over, and their late-season run-heavy approach matches up beautifully against Tampa Bay without Lavonte David. Also, somehow NFC East teams just perform incredibly against Brady in the postseason.

Prediction If David Doesn’t Play: 30-27 Eagles

Prediction If David Does Play: 30-21 Buccaneers

Am I an idiot for picking against Brady? Probably. Will this come back to haunt me? Potentially. However, if David misses this game it’s absolutely massive for Tampa and shouldn’t go unnoticed.

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