A Monday night road matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is all that stands between the Philadelphia Eagles and a spot in the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs. There is no more room for error. We have run out of time to fix the issues that have plagued this team on both sides of the ball, so look for head coach Nick Sirianni's team to focus on his team's strengths.
Here's the good news. Those strengths match up rather well against what has been a middling Buccaneers team this season. Here's a deeper dive into where the Eagles can exploit the NFC South Champions to achieve an advantage on the field of play come Monday.
Eagles Defensive Line vs. Tampa Bay Rushing Attack
Philly would not have gathered 11 wins in the regular season if not for great play in the trenches. Yes, the defensive line has struggled to turn pressures into sacks as of late. Still, it has shown that it can be stout against the run.
Try to ignore that game versus the Arizona Cardinals). The Eagles give up the tenth-fewest yards on the ground per game in the NFL (103.4), so we know the talent is there to get it done.
That is worth pointing out seeing as how the Buccaneers have been dismal when it comes to moving the ball down the field with their rushing attack. Tampa Bay ranks dead last in rushing yards per game (88.8). They're also ranked last in rushing yards per attempt (3.4). A consistent ground game has simply been nonexistent.
Shutting down Tampa Bay's run game would do wonders for the Eagles' chances of earning a win. After all, the Buccaneers would be forced to be a one-dimensional offense like they were in Week 3 when running back Rachaad White was held to 38 yards on 14 carries and also tackled for a safety.
A.J. Brown vs. Tampa Bay Cornerbacks
It's hard to overlook how wide receiver A.J. Brown balled out the last time he faced Tampa Bay. The Pro Bowler tallied 131 yards on nine receptions (14 targets) as he picked apart an inexperienced group of corners. Zyon McCollum, Dee Delaney, and Derrek Pitts all saw snaps in pass coverage. Neither man was effective.
The Bucs get a boost with a fully healthy Carlton Davis II and Jamel Dean ready to go. It's just not as big of a boost as it has been before. Davis is allowing a career-worst 14.6 yards per completion. Dean is giving up a career-worst 112.0 passer rating when targeted. Regression is in full force with those two.
Brown has a chance to replicate his success from Week 3, especially if QB1 Jalen Hurts can get his top wideout the ball in space. The Bucs finished the regular season with the sixth-most yards after the catch allowed (2,152). All it takes is one or two broken tackles to flip this game on its head.
Britain Covey vs. Tampa Bay Punt Coverage
True playoff contenders can excel in all three facets of the game. Philly's punt returner, Britain Covey, has done his best to help the Eagles live up to that mantra this year. The Birds rank tied for first in total punt return yards (417), punt returns of 20-plus yards (seven), and punt returns of 40-plus yards (two).
One of those two lengthy runbacks came when Covey juked and shimmied his way past Buccaneers defenders for a 52-yard return in Week 3. He caught the ball just a few yards from his own end zone and was on the other side of the 50-yard line when all was said and done. It led to an Eagles field goal.
That wasn't the only time Tampa Bay has been burned in punt coverage this campaign, either. The Bucs have been torched for the third-most punt return yards (455) and have forced the second-fewest fair catches (9). Winning the field position battle will be vital at Raymond James Stadium.