Eagles vs. Buccaneers: 3 notable matchups to watch in the Wild Card Round game

The Eagles met the Buccaneers 16 weeks ago. They're a familiar opponent with familiar weapons and familiar obstacles to overcome.
Reed Blankenship, Philadelphia Eagles
Reed Blankenship, Philadelphia Eagles / Mike Carlson/GettyImages

It cannot be expressed enough that the Philadelphia Eagles team we saw in Week 3 isn't anywhere close to resembling the squad we see now. That means the gravity, the stakes, and the reality of the matchups in the Wild Card Round are different as well.

We saw Phillys dominate at Raymond James Stadium this past September, so much so that the game wasn't as competitive as the final score would indicate. Things have changed. During the past month and a half, there have only been a handful of hours where the Eagles have been competitive. 

Let's hope that changes on Monday. It's do or die now. The single-game-elimination style of the NFL Playoffs leaves little room for error. If the Birds don't put their best foot forward, their exit won't last past Monday night.

Pay attention to these matchups during the Eagles vs. Buccaneers Wild Card Round game.

Antoine Winfield vs. Everyone on offense

Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield is an All-Pro this year. It's about time. This dude is crazy good. He leads Tampa in passes defended (12), interceptions (3), forced fumbles (6), and fumbles recovered (3). He also ranks second in team sacks (6). He comes from everywhere and hunts for the ball, and he does so when it's in someone's possession traveling through the air. 

If he becomes a free rusher, he’s going to give Jalen Hurts hell. When he’s in coverage, he’s going to give Jalen Hurts hell. The Eagles have been very bad at dealing with blitzes, so he’s almost certainly going to become a free rusher.

The Eagles love throwing bombs, so he’s going to be in coverage. Winfield is going to make Jalen's life and by association, our lives, a living hell all evening. Strap up. Monday' game will be intense.

Mike Evans vs. whoever lines up across from him in the Eagle secondary

Rather than call what the Eagles have been doing 'defense', we'll call Philly's unit ‘the guys on the other side of the ball from Mike Evans’. Yeah... That sounds a tad more accurate. We can't even trust these guys to line up properly before the snap anymore.

In the Eagles' first matchup with the Buccaneers in Week 3, Tampa targeted Mike Evans five times on third downs. One of those attempts resulted in a 22-yard completion. Another resulted in a touchdown.

If you are game planning for the Buccaneers and you know that the Eagles’ defense has been brutal on third downs, you’re probably going to try to make sure the ball is getting to your best receiver to extend drives. Expect to see a lot of Evans in this one.

This season, he racked up 79 receptions resulting in 1,255 yards and 13 touchdowns. That’s 15.9 yards per catch and a touchdown reception on one out of every six catches. If there is a knock on the Baker Mayfield to Mike Evans connection, it’s that the former has targeted the latter 136 times. That’s a completion rate of 58%.

For reference, the Jalen Hurts to A.J. Brown and Hurts to DeVonta Smith completion rates are 67% and 72% respectively.

Tristan Whirfs vs. Josh Sweat

It feels like we’ve been saying it since the bye week, but if this Eagles defense is going to compete in a game, it’s going to be the pass rush that leads the way. One HUGE key to that is going to be Josh Sweat’s success rate while lining up on Baker Mayfield’s blind side. 

Unfortunately, there's an obstacle in the way, both figurative and literal. It's 24-year-old, two-time All-Pro left tackle Tristan Whirfs. He’s the only really good player on that Buccaneers offensive line. 

Josh Sweat has had, objectively, a disappointing year. Last year he produced 11.5 sacks. This year, that number has dipped to 6.5. His last sack came in Week 9 against the Cowboys. Just looking at that, it's kind of been a microcosm of the entire season for the team.

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