Philadelphia Eagles vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Preview: Prediction, Best Bets, Odds, Depth Charts (9/25/23)
Two undefeated teams square off on Monday Night Football (9/25/23) when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Philadelphia Eagles at 7:15pm in week 3 of the NFL season. The Eagles are the betting favorites at -4.5 on the spread, while the over/under is set at 46 points. This article provides Eagles vs. Bucs analysis, predictions and best bets, including a recommendation to bet on the Eagles to cover the spread.
Eagles vs. Buccaneers Prediction & Best Bet
This is the type of game where we’re going to find out what’s real and what’s a mirage after two weeks of the 2023 NFL season.
Much of the narrative surrounding the Eagles right now is that they are a bit lucky to be 2-0. The passing offense has been out of sync under new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson. The passing defense has been picked apart by Mac Jones and Kirk Cousins. If not for winning the turnover battle in both games so far, they could easily be 1-1 or even 0-2.
Some of that is certainly real. The passing defense is an issue, which is partially attributable to personnel and partially to several injuries. It should improve this week with CB James Bradberry and S Reed Blankenship expected to return, but now slot CB Avonte Maddox is out for (at least most of) the season.
It may be real that Jalen Hurts is taking some time to jell with Johnson’s play calling, and he certainly has looked more indecisive at times than he did all last season. Some of that is also the league adjusting to the Eagles’ offensive scheme and defenses showing them less “vanilla cover-1” and more “chaotic” looks, as Jason Kelce said after week 2.
That has created a perception that the Eagles may be regressing offensively, but we trust the talent of Hurts, a dominant offensive line, and pass catchers like AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert. They will adjust to those adjustments and the passing offense will again be one of the most explosive in the league, possibly as early as this week.
The Bucs, meanwhile, are one of the surprise teams early in the 2023 season after starting out 2-0 with Baker Mayfield under center instead of Tom Brady. Some of the core team that Brady took to the Super Bowl three years ago is still intact, especially the defense that tormented Patrick Mahomes in Super Bowl 55. They also still have one of the best pairs of wide receivers in the NFL, and Mayfield has quickly developed a rapport with Mike Evans.
Those things are real, and the Bucs look like they will exceed expectations this season and cruise past their preseason win total over/under of 6.5 games. At the same time, their offensive line is not nearly what it was for the last two years, and it remains to be seen whether Mayfield can maintain his high level of performance throughout the season. The Eagles are a much more formidable opponent than the Vikings or the Bears, whom the Bucs beat in their first two games.
So we have an ostensibly underperforming team against an overachieving one in the latter’s stadium. If both teams continue on their current trajectory, the Bucs should cover the 4.5-point spread. That’s part of the logic that has driven this line down from its opening line of Eagles -6.5. The big question is what’s real, what isn’t, and will we find out in this game?
The Eagles’ struggling pass defense is real. Their struggling passing offense is not. The Bucs’ strong defense is real. Baker Mayfield’s strong performance is not.
We expect to see the Eagles’ passing offense look much better in this game, especially if Carlton Davis is out again. We also expect the Eagles’ defensive line to dominate the Bucs’ depleted offensive line and wreak havoc on Baker Mayfield, forcing him into a few of the turnovers that have plagued him so far in his career. Mayfield will connect with Evans and Chris Godwin and will end up with a decent game statistically, but not enough to win the game or cover the spread.
The betting markets are overreacting a bit to these teams’ performances so far this season with the line at Eagles -4.5. Picking a side was a bit tougher at -6.5, but at the current line we see quite a bit of value on the Eagles. Given our expectation that both passing offenses will find success in this game, we also like the over on 46 points.
Eagles vs. Buccaneers Team Prediction & Best Bet: Eagles -4.5 (best bet), over 46
Eagles vs. Buccaneers Betting Odds
PHI @ TB
Sep. 25, 11:15 PM
Odds updated September 26th, 2023, at 2:03 am
The betting odds in this game opened with the Eagles as nearly a touchdown favorite at -6.5 on the spread, but they are moving pretty sharply in the Bucs’ direction. As of this writing, the spread is down to Eagles -4.5 at some sportsbooks including BetMGM.
The total has not seen as much movement as it opened at 45 and has seen a minor bump to 46.
The implied outcome of these odds is the Eagles winning 25-21.
Eagles vs. Buccaneers Key Injuries
The Eagles are missing two starters on defense with LB Nakobe Dean (foot) and slot CB Avonte Maddox (pectoral) both on IR. Several other starters who missed their week 2 game – RB Kenneth Gainwell, S Reed Blankenship, and CB James Bradberry – are all trending towards returning in week 3, but their status (especially Bradberry) bears monitoring, as does No. 3 WR Quez Watkins
The Bucs’ most significant injury is long-time center Ryan Jensen, who is out for the season with a knee injury. They also were missing their top CB Carlton Davis III in week 2, which is their most important injury to monitor for this game as he remains questionable. Two rookies on defense – 1st round DT Calijah Kancey and 5th round LB SirVocea Dennis – also missed last week and remain questionable.
Eagles vs. Buccaneers Key Matchups
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Eagles vs. Buccaneers below.
Bucs’ offensive line vs. Eagles’ defensive front
With an honorable mention to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin against the Eagles’ depleted secondary, the most important matchup to watch when the Bucs are on offense is the line of scrimmage.
The Bucs are likely to struggle to run the ball in this game. They are averaging just 2.9 yards per attempt so far this season after being last in the league with a 3.4 average last year. The Eagles are the #1 rushing defense so far this season and are allowing just 3.4 yards per carry. In each of their last two games, the Patriots and Vikings abandoned the run early in the game, whether because of ineffectiveness or game script. If the same thing happens in this game, then the pass protection will become even more important for Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneers have surrendered just 1 sack so far this season, which is a result of solid pass blocking and Mayfield getting rid of the ball quickly. But neither of their opponents so far has nearly the level of pass rushing talent that the Eagles have.
Rookie DT Jalen Carter currently leads all interior defensive linemen with 11 pressures and is 11th among iDL in pass rush win rate at 19.3%, according to Pro Football Focus. Fletcher Cox and Jordan Davis are also among the top 30 iDL in win rate.
— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) September 15, 2023
Bucs 2nd round rookie RG Cody Mauch has graded out very well as a pass blocker through 2 games, but LG Matt Feiler and especially center Robert Hainsey (playing for the injured Jensen) have struggled. The Bucs could be vulnerable to pressure up the middle from the Eagles’ deep and talented interior linemen.
On the edges, there is a great matchup between the Eagles’ Josh Sweat and the Bucs’ All-Pro LT Tristan Wirfs. Sweat looks like he is taking another leap in performance after having 11 sacks last year. He is tied for 6th among edge rushers with 10 pressures so far this year, but faces a big challenge against Wirfs, who is one of the best offensive tackles in the game.
The other edge rusher to watch is Haason Reddick, who was tied for 2nd in the NFL with 16 sacks last season but is off to a quiet start this year. He is dealing with a thumb injury that could be limiting his effectiveness, but he has an advantageous matchup against RT Luke Goedeke.
With concerns about the secondary matching up against Evans and Godwin, it’s critical for the Eagles in this game to get consistent pressure on Mayfield.