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Thursday Night Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles

Thursday Night Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles


Line: Buccaneers -7, Total: 52.5 


Running the Other Direction  

Under former defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, the Philadelphia Eagles were one of the best in the NFL against the run. In 2016, he took over a unit that was dead-last in the league in rushing defense the prior season and immediately brought them to middle-of-the-pack (15th in 2016). The following season, the Birds allowed the fewest yards on the ground in the league and would go on to win Super Bowl LII. They finished 7th in rush defense in 2018 and 3rd in 2019. But after falling 20 spots down to 23rd in 2020, Schwartz was relieved of his duties. To replace him, Philly brought in Jonathan Gannon, who served as the Indianapolis Colts' defensive backs coach from 2018-20. Prior to that, he worked on the Vikings staff as an assistant DB coach. So far, Gannon’s background in pass defense has led to the Eagles allowing the 3rd fewest passing yards per game in the NFL, at less than 200 yards per contest (194.8). However, the rush defense continues to struggle; only the Chargers and Seahawks are giving up more rushing yards per game than Philadelphia.

This week, the Eagles get Tom Brady and the high-flying Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which might be good news (relatively-speaking) for the Birds. The Bucs’ biggest strength is their explosive passing offense; the Bucs average nearly 350 yards per game through the air, which is 39 yards per game higher than the next-best team (LA Rams). But Tampa’s rushing offense hasn’t been as potent so far this year, though they’re openly trying to rectify that situation. Currently, the Bucs are 26th in the NFL, averaging 82 yards rushing per game on the 3rd-fewest rushing attempts per game (20.6). But over the last 2 weeks — wins over the Patriots and Dolphins — Bruce Arians’ team has totaled at least 25 running plays and at least 120 yards on the ground, adding up to 55 attempts and 241 yards. In their first 3 games, Tampa Bay totaled a combined 169 yards rushing on 48 attempts. Based on Philadelphia’s struggles, expect Tampa Bay to try to make it three straight contests with 25+ rushing attempts. 


Thursdays are for the Bradys  

Throughout his career, Brady has won a lot of games. So, obviously, he’s won his share of Thursday Night games … but we dove into exactly how good he’s been on a short week in his career. In 15 career starts on Thursday Night Football, Brady sports a 13-2 record (12-1 as a Patriot, 1-1 as a Buccaneer). Does that translate to success against-the-spread? Yes, it does. Brady has a winning record on Thursdays at 8-5-2 ATS.  It’s worth noting, though, that he’s 0-2 since joining the Bucs. 

Public Loves Brady … Pros Do Not

Another Pros vs. Joes matchup on Thursday Night Football this week: the public LOVES itself some Brady, but the pros are backing first-year starter Jalen Hurts and his Eagles. Despite 71% of the tickets coming in on Tampa, 51% of the money is on the Eagles, according to Action Network. In addition, Action is also reporting significant sharp action on the Birds. The pros also like the over in this matchup; 52% of the bets are on the over and 75% of the money is, as well. Additionally, there has been sharp action reported on the over.  


You Gotta Tackle, Man 

How do the Eagles, a seven-point underdog in a matchup against the now consensus Super Bowl favorite, put themselves in a position to win the game? Some of it is going to depend on Tampa’s ability to make tackles. This season, the Eagles are relying heavily on yards-after-the-catch (YAC). In fact, Philly’s mark of 59.6% of their passing yards resulting from YAC is second in the NFL (Lions are first). Their biggest deep-threat is 2021 #10 overall pick, DeVonta Smith, who has garnered 42% of Hurts’ air yards on the season; that’s largely because Smith is 4th in the NFL in go-routes run with 60 (12 per game).  

The Eagles placed TE Dallas Goedert on the COVID list this week and his status is very much in doubt. That would be a huge loss for Jalen Hurts because his passer rating when targeting Goedert is 149.1 -- that’s the fifth-highest mark in the NFL when targeting a specific receiver. Plus, Goedert is another Eagle in the top 30 in the NFL in generating YAC/reception at 8.0, joining Sanders, Quez Watkins (10.3, 2nd best among WR in the NFL) and Kenneth Gainwell (8.4). 

While Philly’s receivers have been masterful at compiling YAC, running back Miles Sanders has not. Sanders breaks one tackle for every 4.8 rushing attempts, which is the lowest number in the NFL. For perspective, Sanders has broken 10 tackles this season on rushing plays, which is tied for 2nd lowest. The player who is behind him, Alvin Kamara, has run the ball nearly twice as many times as Sanders (93 to 48) and has only one more broken tackle (11 to 10). Sanders has also broken 5 tackles on receptions, which is 5th among RBs. And, calling back to the point about the Eagles’ YAC ability, Miles Sanders is 3rd among all RB in YAC/reception with 10.6. 

Side note: QB Jalen Hurts thrives on not having to break tackles. Hurts leads the NFL with an average of 4.8 yards before contact per attempt. He’s the only player in the NFL who has over 200 yards rushing before contact on less than 50 carries, and he leads all NFL QBs in yards rushing before contact.