It’s an intriguing fixture for this week’s Thursday Night Football match-up, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, fresh off a smothering of state rivals, the Miami Dolphins, visit Lincoln Financial Field to take on the Philadelphia Eagles.
Tom Brady passed for over 400 yards and five touchdowns in the win last weekend, as the Bucs took advantage of Miami’s defence to post a weekend-high 45 points, including two scores to old friend, Antonio Brown.
Their hosts, the Eagles, didn’t produce quite such a performance against the Carolina Panthers, but with a late winning touchdown run from quarterback, Jalen Hurts, and an eventual victory over a strong NFC team in the Panthers, there seems to be a bit more confidence dripping from the team heading into Week 6.
Thumbing through the playbook
For many people, the focus for Thursday’s game will be, as usual, Tom Brady.
Not only did number 12 produce an incredible performance against the Dolphins, as the team recovered from a pair of rusty weeks that included a loss to the LA Rams and a narrow but overly hard-fought win against the Patriots, but he really looked back to his absolute best.
The stat line speaks for itself, 411 yards, five passing touchdowns, as well as a 74% completion percentage, as he controlled, organised and directed his receivers and backs all over the field all day long.
It could have been Brady at 25 or Brady at 35, his spreading of the ball at both short and long depth of throw was that of a man far younger than his age, and his cold calculated methods are at risk of completely dicing the Eagles defence all night long.
The only concern will be a reported thumb injury that although bravely, he has said will not affect him come Thursday, he did wear a glove on the throwing hand during practice on Monday and didn’t throw a pass – so clearly, not all is 100%.
Keys are the keys
If the Eagles are intending to get anything out of the Buccaneers when they come to town, they will need to get big evenings out of their key players on both sides of the ball.
On offence, eyes will remain on first-round rookie receiver DaVonta Smith, who despite managing just 314 yards and a touchdown on paper, has continued to improve through the season and had a score taken off the board last week against the Panthers for a poorly ran rub route by Greg Ward Jr.
Smith has gone for 199 yards in his last two games, as well as a clutch two-point conversion last time out and has shown signs that his relationship with QB Jalen Hurts is continuing to grow – a crucial factor in both their and the team’s success.
On defence, last year’s marquee signing, Darius Slay, came up with a pair of huge interceptions against the Panthers and produced some of the play that had made him such a coveted asset in free agency a year ago.
“Big Play” Slay had earnt a great reputation for the impressive, and while Sunday certainly showed that, he still isn’t able to cover the huge stable of Bucs receivers, so his job of locking up just one could be a challenge that is eventually futile.
Despite a big win for the Eagles on the weekend, I am still not sure whether I can see anything other than a Buccaneers win when they come to town this Thursday night.
Everything that Philadelphia is decent at doing on both sides of the ball, Tampa Bay seems to have the answer to; a great corner against three great receivers, a powerful defensive line vs a stout offensive line, a good running quarterback vs a stingy run defence – wherever the Eagles look there is issues.
And while Brady’s thumb will be a focus point, and this game probably won’t be quite as easy as the Bucs found it against the Dolphins in Week 5, they are likely to still end up sat at 4-2 come Friday morning.
Tampa Bay 31, Philadelphia 17