Eagles aim to pull out of late-season funk, visit surging Buccaneers in NFC wild-card matchup

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Saturday, January 13, 2024


Monday, 8:15 p.m. EST, ESPN, ABC

OPENING LINE: Eagles by 3, .

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Eagles 8-8-1; Buccaneers 11-5-1.

SERIES RECORD: Tied 11-11, including postseason.

LAST MEETING: Eagles beat Buccaneers 25-11 in Tampa on Sept. 25, 2023.

LAST WEEK: Eagles lost on road to New York Giants 27-10; Buccaneers won 9-0 at Carolina.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Eagles minus-10; Buccaneers plus-8.

EAGLES PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Jalen Hurts injured the middle finger on his throwing hand during Philadelphia's regular-season finale against the New York Giants, raising questions about how effective he will be Monday night. In addition to throwing for careers highs of 3,858 yards and 23 touchdowns, he also rushed for 15 TDs. He's led the Eagles into the playoffs the past three seasons and has accounted for nine TDs - five rushing, four passing - in four career games, including last year's Super Bowl.

BUCCANEERS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Baker Mayfield is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2020, when he was with Cleveland, and has made the most of his opportunity to revive his career as the successor to Tom Brady in Tampa Bay. He's completed 64% of his passes for career single-season bests of 4,044 yards and 28 touchdowns while minimizing costly turnovers that hindered him in previous stops with the Browns, Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Rams.

KEY MATCHUP: Bucs WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin vs. Eagles CBs Darius Slay and James Bradberry. Philadelphia lost five of six down the stretch following a 10-1 start to the season. A leaky defense shares responsibility. The Eagles ranked 31st in pass defense, allowing 252.7 yards per game. Evans (1,255) and Godwin (1,024) are one of three sets of teammates who each had more than 1,000 yards receiving in 2022 and 2023. The others are Miami's Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle and Philadelphia's A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. Evans tied Hill for the NFL lead in TD catches with 13. He had nine receptions for 117 yards and a TD when the Bucs beat the Eagles in the playoffs two years ago.

KEY INJURIES: Eagles QB Jalen Hurts (right finger) isn't the only player who's banged up heading into the postseason. WR A.J. Brown (knee), WR DeVonta Smith, S Reed Blankenship (groin), RB D'Andre Swift (illness) and CB Darius Slay (knee) are on the Eagles injury report this week, though Smith, Swift and Slay were listed as full participants in practice. Hurts was limited early in the week but will play. Brown was officially ruled out on Saturday. Tampa Bay's injury report includes Mayfield (ribs, ankle) and LT Tristan Wirfs (illness). They were listed as nonparticipants early in the week but will play. "Everybody is good to go," coach Todd Bowles said Saturday.

SERIES Game notes

While the Eagles lead the regular-season series 9-8, the Bucs hold a 3-2 edge in the playoffs, including the past two. Ronde Barber's 92-yard interception return in the 2002 NFC championship game in Philadelphia clinched Tampa Bay's first trip to the Super Bowl, while Tom Brady beat Hurts and the Eagles in a NFC wild-card game in Tampa two years ago. Back-to-back road playoff losses to Philadelphia in 2000 and 2001 were a major factor in Tampa Bay's decision to fire Tony Dungy as coach after that second meeting. Jon Gruden led the Bucs to their first NFL title the following season.

STATS AND STUFF: Hurts led the Eagles to a dominating 14-point victory over the Bucs in a Week 3 prime-time matchup in Tampa. The Eagles QB threw for 277 yards and one touchdown and also ran for a TD. Philadelphia rushed for 201 yards, with RB D'Andre Swift (18 carries, 130 yards) doing much of the damage. The Eagles ran 78 plays to Tampa Bay's 44 and outgained the Bucs 472 yards to 174. Philadelphia led 25-3 before the Bucs finally got into the end zone with 9:22 remaining, then ran out the clock to end the game. ... Swift finished fifth in the league in rushing with 1,049 yards and had a career-best 1,263 yards from scrimmage. ... Brown led the Eagles with a career-high 106 receptions for 1,456 yards and seven TDs. Smith had 81 catches for 1,066 yards and seven TDs. ... Eagles LB Hassan Riddick had 11 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. He and Cleveland's Myles Garrett are the only players with 10-plus sacks each of the past four seasons. ... The Buccaneers are the only NFC team that's appeared in the playoffs each of the past four seasons. Kansas City and Buffalo are the only AFC teams that have done that. ... The Chiefs have the most playoff wins (seven) since 2020. The Bucs are second with five, with Tom Brady at QB. ... The Tampa Bay defense has 16 postseason takeaways over the past three years, most in the NFL. ... Bucs rookies Yaya Diaby and Calijah Kancey combined for 22 tackles for loss, 20 quarterback hits and 11 1/2 sacks this season. ... Bucs S Antoine Winfield, Jr. was the NFC defensive player of the month for December/January. He's one of four players since 2000 who've had five-plus sacks, five-plus takeaways and five-plus forced fumbles in the same season. The others are T.J. Watt, Justin Tuck and Terrell Suggs.


AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL

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