Ryan Fitzpatrick faces what could be his toughest test in 2018 in the Philadelphia Eagles defense. Can he keep the magic alive in Week Two?
“Fitzmagic is alive and well.”
Those were the words of Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter after the Bucs big win over New Orleans last week. Koetter summed up the day perfectly.
Ryan Fitzpatrick put together a magical performance. He totaled five touchdowns and took home NFC Player of the Week honors for his effort. Fitzpatrick flat-out owned the Saints.
While New Orleans is likely playoff bound, the real test for Fitzpatrick will be this Sunday against the reigning champions, the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles defense can terrorize opposing offenses. Their devastating front line runs eight men deep. Former Pro Bowlers and All-Pros like Haloti Ngata play secondary roles as players shuffle in-and-out on every snap.
In the Eagles first game, the often high-powered Atlanta Falcons offense was shut down. Julio Jones had a solid day, but the Falcons only managed 12 points on the contest. Former league MVP Matt Ryan was quieted. Fitzpatrick is in for the same struggle.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Philadelphia’s pass rush, led by Brandon Graham, will get to Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick’s ability to scramble may save him on occasion, but the Eagles bring pressure from all angles. There may not be a pocket to escape from, with Fletcher Cox barreling Ryan Jensen and Ali Marpet backward.
Much of the stress lies on the shoulders of the Buccaneers offensive line. The big bodies up front need to give Fitzpatrick some time, or the magic will fade.
Against New Orleans, ‘Fitz’ wasn’t sacked. He had time to deliver the ball deep downfield as the superior Tampa Bay receivers decimated the Saints secondary. The Eagles are exploitable through the air. Their group of cornerbacks shouldn’t be a problem for the Bucs pass catchers, as our Derek Quesenberry pointed out in his recent piece.
The difference this week will be the time he has in the pocket. The Eagles are going to be right in his face from the opening drive. DeSean Jackson and company can’t create separation that quickly. The deep passing game will be less of a factor in Week Two.
Although the Bucs didn’t make much noise on the ground, Peyton Barber was active when he touched the ball. Barber ran for 69 yards, but offensive coordinator Todd Monken knew that Fitzpatrick was the hot hand. The running game could be shut down quickly thanks to Philadelphia’s front seven.
Last season, the Eagles had the best run defense in the league, holding opponents to just 79.2 yards per contest. They continued to be proficient in that area by holding Atlanta to just 71 yards on the ground.
Against the Eagles, Fitzpatrick is going to regress to the mean. He won’t light up the stat sheet, but he could give the Buccaneers enough to keep them in the ballgame. Fitzpatrick needs to manage the ball game and find the cracks in the defense.
Heading into the Week Two matchup, temper your expectations. Could the Buccaneers beat the Eagles on Sunday? Absolutely. Nick Foles isn’t a world beater, and the offense still has the weapons to put points on the board, but there certainly won’t be an offensive showcase like last week.