3TFO: Eagles @ Buccaneers, Week 6
Nick Foles is undefeated as a starting quarterback against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — he is also winless in all of his other starts. It appears that he will get another crack at the Bucs this week in Tampa Bay when the 2-3 Eagles take on the 0-4 Buccaneers. In the game last season, Foles was making his fourth start as a professional and he engineered a game-winning touchdown drive as time expired. It was Philadelphia’s only victory after Week 4 and the final win of the Andy Reid era.
The Eagles snapped a three-game losing streak last week by defeating the New York Giants 36-21. Philadelphia is 2-3 on the year, but is 2-0 in division games and is tied for first place in the struggling NFC East. Foles is the apparent starter this week with Michael Vick nursing a hamstring injury that knocked him out of the win over New York. If the Eagles are going to contend for a division title this is a game they will need to win.
Tampa Bay will be coming off their bye week and is in desperate need of a clean slate. The first month of 2013 couldn’t have been more chaotic and upsetting for the Buccaneers. On top of being winless, Tampa Bay has been dealing with constant rumors and turmoil surrounding now-jettisoned quarterback, Josh Freeman. The release of Freeman finally ended the unwanted drama, leaving rookie Mike Glennon as the unquestioned starter and leader of the team. Glennon struggled in a Week 4 loss to the Cardinals, but has now had two weeks to prepare as the starter for the Eagles and the Bucs are hopeful this will be a positive start to the rest of their season. In order for Tampa Bay to break into the win column they will need to perform well in these three key battles.
DeSean Jackson vs. Darrelle Revis
Speedy Eagles’ wide receiver DeSean Jackson created a buzz earlier in the week when he claimed that Buccaneers’ cornerback Darrelle Revis couldn’t keep up with him. Revis avoided a war of words and will look to slow down Jackson, who is off to a good start in 2013. Jackson has been the Eagles’ most dangerous weapon and has seen the bulk of the opportunities. DeSean has been targeted 46 times this season, while all the Eagles’ other wide receivers have combined for 48 targets. The heavy workload has paid off for the Eagles though, on the 46 passes thrown to Jackson, Eagles’ quarterbacks have a QB rating of 122.1 which is sixth-best in the NFL. Jackson’s speed has been on display often in the early part of 2013, he leads all receivers with seven receptions on passes that were targeted 20 or more yards downfield. Most teams try to avoid throwing passes towards Darrelle Revis, but with Jackson being such a large portion of the Philadelphia offense they will have to count on Jackson to win that battle.
Beating Revis is no easy task and could be a dangerous plan. While teams have tested Revis a bit more this season after returning from knee surgery, it hasn’t been a fruitful decision. He has allowed 12 receptions on 166 snaps in coverage, a rate that ranks him 14th in the NFL. On those 166 snaps in coverage, quarterbacks have thrown at Revis 22 times, completing 12 passes, one of which was a touchdown and one he intercepted, tallying a QB rating of 63.1, 15th-best among cornerbacks. The most important stat for Revis this week is that he hasn’t allowed a reception longer than 13 yards all season, a number Jackson will be sure to test. If Revis can keep Jackson in front of him and allow only short receptions, the Tampa Bay defense will be in good shape.
Evan Mathis vs. Gerald McCoy
The interior of the Eagles’ offensive line struggled last week against the Giants and will need to rebound this week in order to open some running lanes for running back LeSean McCoy. Left guard Evan Mathis is pivotal to what Philadelphia does in the running game. He has the highest run blocking grade of all guards in the NFL, and it is a sizeable gap between him and the next closest player. However, Mathis’ run blocking grade has decreased each week this season and he has a lofty challenge facing Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. McCoy has struggled against the run this year, ranking 42nd among qualifying defensive tackles in Run Stop Percentage, so Mathis should be able to create some space in the running game. Where McCoy might be able to get the better of Mathis is in the passing game. He is currently ranked fifth in the NFL in Pass Rushing Productivity among defensive tackles, generating 19 total pressures in 160 pass rushing opportunities. Mathis is no slouch when it comes to pass protection, but has fallen off from last season when he ranked sixth in the league in Pass Blocking Efficiency. So far this season he ranks 34th on that same list, surrendering 11 pressures on 191 pass blocking plays. This will be an intriguing battle that will be pivotal to the success of the Eagles’ offense.
Nick Foles vs. Mike Glennon
As is the case with almost every NFL game, this contest will most likely be decided by which quarterback has the better game. While they won’t be on the field at the same time and won’t be in direct combat, the quarterback who makes more plays and makes fewer mistakes will probably be victorious. Foles played well in relief of Michael Vick last week, finishing with an adjusted Accuracy Percentage of 81.8% and made some big throws in a close game to get the win. A key to Foles’ success in the Chip Kelly offense will be his ability to make quick decisions and get the ball out of his hand faster than Vick. Foles averages 2.87 seconds to throw, compared to Vick at 3.40 seconds. While getting the ball out faster is helpful, he still must be accurate and be making the proper reads.
Glennon struggled in his NFL debut back in Week 4 and will need to be drastically better if Tampa Bay is going to be successful for the remainder of the season. Like many rookie quarterbacks, many of his struggles came against the blitz and when he was pressured. Arizona blitzed Glennon on 22 of his 45 drop-backs and his QB rating on those plays was a meager 18.7. He completed just seven passes on those 22 plays and also threw two interceptions. It wasn’t just the blitz that rattled Glennon, it was pressure of any variety. He faced pressure on 17 of the 45 drop-backs, completing just five passes and tallying a 14.6 QB rating on those plays. Philadelphia will most certainly plan on bringing pressure against Glennon, how he handles it could dictate the outcome of the game.
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