The Buccaneers need to stick to their identity if they want to beat the Eagles in the playoffs.
The playoffs start today, and it is nice that the Buccaneers have a day to prepare themselves before they face off with a resurgent Eagles team that should prove rather scrappy in the first round.
The Bucs already took care of Philly earlier in the season, but this team is different. The top rushing offense in the NFL can be a scary mountain to climb, especially for a defense as porous as Tampa’s, but this game will actually come down to the other side of the ball.
The main focus for fans and analysts alike has come down to Philly’s run game and Tampa’s run defense, but it is actually Tom Brady and the passing attack that will decide this game.
Sure, the weather conditions won’t be great and should favor running the ball, but the “establish the run and play good defense in the playoffs crowd” won’t leave the game too happy tomorrow if they are pulling for the Buccaneers.
In fact, this could be one of the worst games of the season for the Buccaneers to establish a run game, even if all the signs point to otherwise.
The elements aren’t great, but it’s not like Tampa was going to live by the deep ball tomorrow anyway. The Buccaneer offense has been based around short passes and screen recently, and any team can accomplish this in the rain.
Getting quick passes out to the flats and letting receivers make plays against corners is the far more efficient way to play to Tampa’s strengths without completely allowing the weather to change the game, and the Bucs don’t want to get forced into that box either way.
The Buccaneers simply aren’t a running team. Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones are a decent running duo, but this has still never been the strength of Tampa’s offense. To make matters worse, the Bucs could be without Fournette in addition to Jones, which would leave Tampa without the necessary weapons to establish a run game either way.
The wide receiver room is depleted, but the running backs are depleted even more. You don’t want to rely on a trio of Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Le’Veon Bell, and Fournette without practice as your main source of offensive production when your season is on the line.
This team has reached this peak by betting on Tom Brady, and there is no reason to stop doing this now. Brady has elevated teammates for decades and his playoff record speaks for itself, even in bad weather.
Passing early and often seems risky, but it is far safer than there alternative when looking at this game. Ball possession hasn’t been Tampa’s strength, and the defense has done little to inspire confidence that it will step up in a situation like this.
If the Bucs come out and try to run to out-possess the Eagles, it is extremely likely that they will go down several scores quickly, which will then force them to pass anyway.
The Buccaneers can’t get caught up in the storylines from the past. The modern game is about the pass, and having the best quarterback in the game paints a clear picture of how this game should go; weather or not.
It won’t be pretty, but if the Buccaneers come out and let Tom Brady play his game rather than wasting early downs just for the sake of running, Tampa should advance to the next round.
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