NFC wild-card preview: Eagles and Buccaneers each looking for spark in playoffs

It's hard to end a playoff season worse than the Philadelphia Eagles did. But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren't charging into the postseason either.

The Eagles lost five of their last six games to end the season. They blew the NFC East title after starting 10-1 and now have to start their postseason on the road at the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay's late-season skid wasn't that bad, but their offense struggled badly in the final two games. To add to the woe for both teams, Jalen Hurts and Baker Mayfield are each dealing with injuries heading into the game.

There's intrigue going into the Monday night wild-card game. It just might not be pretty.

Eagles (11-6) at Buccaneers (9-8)

Monday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC

Betting line: Eagles -3, total of 43.5

Super Bowl odds: Eagles +1800, Buccaneers +6600

Odds via BetMGM

Why we're watching

No offense to the Buccaneers, but the Eagles are the show. More specifically, the Eagles' unbelievable collapse is one of the biggest stories in the NFL. They haven't just gotten unlucky in close games lately. They've been one of the worst teams in football.

Philadelphia's defense has collapsed. The offense looks disjointed and won't get more efficient with A.J. Brown (knee) missing the game. If the Eagles go from a 10-1 start to losing six of their last seven, including a one-and-done playoff stay, many in Philly will be screaming for big changes to be made.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) suffered a finger injury in the team's regular-season finale. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) suffered a finger injury in the team's regular-season finale. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

What could put us to sleep

Tampa Bay hasn't scored a meaningful touchdown in two weeks. In Week 17 against the Saints, the Bucs trailed 20-0 before scoring two garbage-time touchdowns late in the fourth quarter. In Week 18 against a two-win Panthers team, the Bucs didn't score a touchdown at all but won 9-0.

Baker Mayfield is dealing with rib and ankle injuries and maybe that's too much for the Bucs offense to overcome. He has had a good season on a one-year deal with Tampa Bay, but he wasn't good in the final two games. Maybe facing a bad Eagles secondary will help turn things around. But it also could be another low-scoring, ugly game for the Bucs.

Wild card of this wild card

The weather in Tampa won't be as bad as Buffalo or Kansas City, but it might not be a clear Monday night either. The forecast at Yahoo Weather calls for thunderstorms. There is a 69% chance at precipitation. If it's pouring, that won't help either struggling offense. Perhaps it would be a little better for the Eagles, who have a top offensive line, but their run game has been hit or miss this season.

We saw a sloppy rain game between the Steelers and Ravens in Week 18. Tampa might not be that bad on Monday night, but if there are thunderstorms it will certainly change the makeup of the game.

Person we'll likely praise after the victory

D'Andre Swift ran for 130 yards against the Buccaneers in a Week 3 win that seems like it happened years ago. It probably feels that way for Swift, who hasn't had a 100-yard rushing game since that one against the Bucs. Swift was solid down the stretch, but the Eagles might need him to be great Monday. If it's raining, Hurts' finger is hurting, Swift becomes a huge part of the offense. It won't be easy against a good Bucs run defense, but if the Eagles win it's probably because Swift had his first 100-yard game in months.

Person we'll likely second-guess after the loss

Unfortunately, it'll be Baker Mayfield. He is showing his toughness playing through injuries and has had a very good season, but the results of the last two weeks weren't good and a loss at home to a beatable Eagles team wouldn't be a great way to end the season. Before the late-season slide, it was assumed Mayfield would be back to be the Buccaneers' quarterback in 2024. That is still the most likely outcome, but a lot of the luster would come off if Mayfield doesn't rebound some in the wild-card round.