The banged up Buccaneers are set up for a loss against the Eagles on Thursday night

To have a shot at winning, Tampa Bay needs to look to its ground game.

click to enlarge Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead  during practice at AdventHealth Training Center. - Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead during practice at AdventHealth Training Center.

Remember last year’s Thursday night game against the Bears on Oct. 8 where the Bucs inexplicably lost to Nick Foles in Chicago? That’s what the Bucs’ upcoming Oct. 14 Thursday night matchup with the Eagles reminds me of.

With the Eagles’ potentially explosive offense combined with their off-and-on defense, the Bucs are going to have a tough time. I’m thinking a sleeper game in a shortened week with a banged up Bucs team will lead to a 24-20 loss for Tampa Bay. 

That’s an unpopular call—and it might not even play out that way when you look at Tom Brady’s history against Philadelphia (TB12 earned his third ring against the Eagles back in 2005 when Donovan McNabb was under center)—but I just can’t shake this feeling that Philly QB Jalen Hurts is going to have a career game against this brutally-beat up Bucs defense. 

The Bucs D is already without cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting and Carlton Davis III, but now rocksteady linebacker Lavonte David—who suffered an ankle injury that knocked him out of Sunday’s game against the Dolphins—is also out for Thursday’s matchup.

Without David, the Bucs turn to experienced special teams man Kevin Minter to fill those snaps. While Minter will do a solid job of replacing the three-time All-Pro, the Bucs usually stout rush defense might suffer a bit, especially against Hurts, who is one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league. 

Bucs linebacker Devin White may be forced into spying on the QB almost every play, as Hurts can make you pay for allowing him to escape the pocket and get into the open field. 

As for the Bucs’ game plan offensively, Tampa may be forced to look to the ground game much more than it has in previous weeks. The Eagles give up the third-most yards per game in the NFL on the ground, while being in the top-three in passing yards allowed per game. 

If the Bucs do look to throw the ball at all, they might look towards getting their running backs and tight ends involved. The Eagles’ safeties and linebackers are their weakest links, and the Bucs could use running backs Leonard Fournette and Gio Bernard to take advantage. Expect tight end Bucs OJ Howard to have a little bigger of a role as well. 

Hopefully I’m wrong and the Bucs come out and kick some Eagle ass, but we shall see. 

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