Week 14: Eagles-Bucs preview

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


Philadelphia at Tampa Bay
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Raymond James Stadium, Tampa - TV: FOX; DirecTV: 708
*TV announcers: Dick Stockton, John Lynch, Jennifer Hale
*Keys to the game: The Eagles' lack of a pass rush promises to wreak havoc in a matchup against a big quarterback who can shed tackles and big-play wide receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams working against a secondary that has been shaky in deep coverage. Throw in RB Doug Martin, a tough back who runs hard in tight areas and can hurt the Eagles' wide-nine sets, and Tampa Bay should be able to move the ball with relative ease. That puts a lot of pressure on rookie QB Nick Foles, who will start even if Michael Vick (concussion) is cleared. Foles is a good student of the game and has surprising agility for a 6-foot-6 signal-caller. But he's still prone to the typical rookie habit of staring down his primary receiver. Tampa Bay's secondary has been abused for big yardage all season, but the Bucs are opportunistic with 17 interceptions and a plus-11 turnover margin. Eagles rookie RB Bryce Brown has been electric in two games LeSean McCoy has missed with his own concussion, but also has been dogged by three big fumbles in close games.
*Matchup to watch - Foles vs. Bucs DB Ronde Barber: Barber might have lost a step as the Bucs transitioned him into more of a safety role this season, but he remains a ballhawk in his 16th season. Barber will move around the field, from safety to corner to hovering around the box depending upon the situation, and has a team-high four interceptions. Foles, who has thrown a respectable three picks in 133 pass attempts, has to be alert to where Barber is lurking at all times.
*Player spotlight - Eagles WR Damaris Johnson: An undrafted rookie out of Tulsa, Johnson opened the season as the punt returner before losing the job after five games. With DeSean Jackson out for the season, Johnson has regained the punt return job and is also enjoying an increased role on offense.
*Fast facts: Brown has rushed for 347 yards on 8.1 yards per carry the past two games. ... All six of Tampa Bay's losses have been by one score.
WHO WILL WIN AND WHY
The Eagles have found a silver lining amid a terrible season in promising rookies Nick Foles and Bryce Brown. But they're still prone to rookie mistakes, and Tampa Bay's explosive playmakers will have their way with Philly's reeling defense.
*Our pick: Bucs 31-25