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NFL Preview - Philadelphia (2-3) at Tampa Bay (0-4)
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Philadelphia Eagles will play their third straight road game when they visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
The Eagles are coming off a big win over the NFC East-rival New York Giants and halted a three-game losing streak with a 36-21 decision. They blew an early lead in that one, but a 14-point fourth quarter and poor play by Giants quarterback Eli Manning propelled them to victory and first place in the division.
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick suffered a hamstring injury and was forced to leave the game, prompting head coach Chip Kelly to call on backup Nick Foles, who played well in relief and completed 16-of-25 passes for 197 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. Foles could get the start Sunday in Tampa, but there hasn't been an official word yet.
"I don't know if he'll play Sunday. Right now he's day-to-day, and we'll see how he goes through the rehab process," Kelly said on Monday.
Vick said Thursday he is preparing to play, even if he's the backup. He said the hamstring is getting better each day and will know more Sunday.
Philadelphia's up-tempo offense has been run well by Vick and his speed keeps defenses honest. With Vick under center, it enables running back LeSean McCoy to find the open holes because the defense has to prepare for two runners with the ball. If Foles gets the nod against the Bucs, McCoy's numbers could drop.
However, Foles' immobility is made up for with his accuracy and quick delivery. The ball is out of his hand faster than Vick and that could aid Philadelphia in the long run. When Vick went down against the Giants, McCoy was used more in the passing game and is mismatch for linebackers.
"Quick release is really important," Foles said. "But it's really just getting through your reads and once you see it ... a lot of times we're throwing the ball before the guy's even breaking, before he's in the hole. That's where timing comes in handy."
The Eagles are facing an 0-4 Tampa Bay team that is coming off the bye week. They're not fooled by the winless record either.
"From my experience, anybody can win at any given time," Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks said. "We're all paid here. We all get paid for what we do. Everyone's pretty good. We're not taking any team lightly-wounded or not wounded, it doesn't matter. Rookie quarterback or non-rookie quarterback, tight ends down or no tight ends down, we're going ... They a have a good, good team. They have a great offensive line, a great runner and they're a good team."
Tampa Bay, of course, is steering itself away from the Josh Freeman saga and is looking to avoid its first 0-5 start since losing the first seven games of the 2009 season. Freeman was released last week and was picked up by the Minnesota Vikings, so the Bucs are sticking with rookie quarterback Mike Glennon. Glennon was 24-of-43 for 193 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in his debut in a 13-10 loss to Arizona on Sept. 29.
Glennon said he was able to grasp more of the offense during the bye week.
"I think the bye week came at a great time ... just to be able to watch that film a few times, you get more comfortable and then get the extra practice in last week and then get a jumpstart on Philly," Glennon said. "To be able to watch the film and kind of get the game plan ahead of time has helped my preparation and will help us have a better feel for things come the game."
The NC State product has running back Doug Martin as a safety valve if things get tough on Sunday. Martin is a powerful back despite his size at 5-9 and can pack a big punch. He has just one 100-yard rushing game this season and managed just 45 yards on 27 carries in the loss to the Cardinals. He has carried the ball at least 20 times in every game this season and is facing an Eagles defense that is allowing 108.0 rushing yards per game.
Martin ran for 128 yards and a touchdown in last season's 23-21 loss to the Eagles at home. Bucs wide receiver Vincent Jackson recorded 131 yards and a score on six receptions in that loss.
The Eagles own a 9-7 record all-time against Tampa Bay and are 3-3 on the road in this series. The two teams have split four matchups in the playoffs.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Eagles wide receiver and Offensive Player of the Week DeSean Jackson got the trash talking started early when he said that Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis couldn't keep up with him.
"I'm definitely sure his coaches are confident in him, but I don't think he can run with me, I don't think he's as fast as me," Jackson said Tuesday. "So it will be a challenge, man. He's a great player, nothing to take away from him. I'm just focused on what we have to do here, which is win a football game."
Revis heard the quotes and didn't take the bait.
"I'm not fast. I've never been fast. I'm not fast; he's fast," Revis said "Fast people are allowed to say those types of things. I've covered him before in the past and it was a good battle. We'll see what happens this time around. I'm not here to discuss who's the fastest. I'm not running for the Olympics and he's not either. I'm just here to compete and play."
It will be interesting to see Jackson and Revis go head-to-head on Sunday. Jackson is known for talking during games and Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall can attest to that when the two went at it in Week 1. Jackson is third in the NFC with 525 receiving yards and averages a conference-best 18.8 yards per catch.
Another interesting matchup will be McCoy against Tampa Bay's stingy run defense, which is averaging just 94.2 rushing yards per game. The Bucs have defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Akeem Spence to plug the gaps, while former Eagle Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and Adrian Clayborn can cut LeSean McCoy down around the ends. Gerald McCoy was asked about the Eagles' offense this week.
"It's up-tempo. We've just got to be ready for it," he said. "I think, with how we prepare here and how we train here, we'll be all right, conditioning- wise. We've just got to make sure we ignore all the bells and whistles and just focus on our keys."
Tampa Bay hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown this season. Bucs safety Mark Barron is a tackling machine and leads the team with 30. He could be in for a busy day against the Philly's break-neck offense.
The Eagles could be headed for the deadly "trap game" with the rival Dallas Cowboys on the horizon. However, every NFL player and coach understands that to be successful you have to take it one week at a time.
There's no doubt the Eagles will struggle against a winless, yet talented Bucs team and they'll have to jump out to an early lead. Tampa Bay can play some offense, too, and expect another workload by Martin against an Eagles defense that doesn't show up from down-to-down. In the end, though, Philadelphia will remain perched atop the NFC East for next week's matchup at home versus Dallas.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eagles 26, Buccaneers 20
10/10 15:31:30 ET