To the surprise of many, the Philadelphia Eagles enter their Week 14 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the focus on 2013 instead of toward the upcoming playoffs. They'll have a chance to take out some frustration Sunday when they visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Bucs sit at a respectable 6-6 and are firmly in the playoff race, but have dropped two straight games and face an Eagles team that boasts the talent to be scary no matter what their record is.
Unfortunately for Philadelphia, that talent hasn't translated into wins, as they've lost eight straight games and are staring their 10th defeat of the season in the face on the road in Tampa.
Let's dive in and check out everything you need to know about this matchup.
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
When: Sunday, December 9, 1 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL.com
Injury Report (via CBS Sports, as of Dec. 3)
Eagles: Kurt Coleman (unknown, chest), Jason Avant (probable, hamstring), Riley Cooper (probable, knee), Fletcher Cox (questionable, tailbone), Jon Dorenbos (probable, ankle), King Dunlap (probable, knee), Stanley Havili (probable, ankle), LeSean McCoy (out, concussion), Dallas Reynolds (questionable, ankle), Michael Vick (out, concussion), Danny Watkins (probable, ankle)
Bucs: Michael Bennett (probable, ankle), Ted Larsen (probable, illness), Roy Miller (probable, illness), Dekoda Watson (probable, hamstring), Eric Wright (unknown, Achilles)
What's At Stake?
The Eagles entered the 2012 season as one of the Super Bowl favorites, but at this point they're playing for nothing more than next year's aspirations and draft positioning. Still, with rookie quarterback Nick Foles gaining some experience and many questions heading into next season, there's plenty to play for.
While the Bucs didn't do their playoff chances any good with two straight losses, they'll all but lock up a playoff spot if they win out and finish with a 10-6 record.
Buccaneers RB Doug Martin
The fact that so many people referred to Doug Martin's nine-point performance last week as a below-average outing speaks to his insane efficiency as a rookie.
Martin was kept out of the end zone last week against Denver, one of the league's most stifling rush defenses, but that won't translate to his effectiveness in Week 14 against Philadelphia. The Eagles struggle to stop the run, and nobody is running harder than Martin at the moment.
Expect the rookie out of Boise State to get his 10th rushing touchdown of the year and continue to assert himself as a rookie sensation in the league this season.
Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin
Philadelphia wideout Jeremy Maclin has been the epitome of a start-or-sit fantasy option this season, but I expect him to have a big outing on Sunday.
Maclin created some good chemistry with Foles in his first true outing, notching 93 yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys back on Nov. 11.
With DeSean Jackson out for the season, the Eagles are strapped at the receiver position and need Maclin to step up as a playmaker to help out his rookie quarterback. He'll do so because the Bucs are dead last in the league in pass defense (per ESPN).
What They Are Saying
The looming departure of Eagles coach Andy Reid may be inevitable, but that didn't stop him from making the tough decision to start Nick Foles for the rest of the season, according to SportsCenter on Twitter.
BREAKING - Andy Reid names Nick Foles @eagles starting QB for rest of season; says he'll start even when Michael Vick is cleared to return.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 3, 2012
To few people's surprise, the Bucs stormed the Broncos on the final play of last week's game as they lined up in the victory formation. Head coach Greg Schiano was heavily scrutinized after doing so earlier in the season, and he's come under fire again by a surprising candidate, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher and 2012 Cy Young winner David Price.
I really wish I knew what Peyton Manning just told Schiano after the game...could have been nice...could have been not so nice— David Price (@DAVIDprice14) December 3, 2012
Key Matchup: Nick Foles vs. Bucs Secondary
As was mentioned in the last segment, Tampa Bay can't stop a nose-bleed through the air, as opposing teams average almost 310 passing yards per game. That may be a good sign for the Eagles, but it could spell doom if they come out flat, as the Bucs are first in the NFL in run defense.
For Philly to have any chance, they'll need to get it going through the air in their first few drives. This will ease up the pressure on the run game and allow the Eagles rushers to find some space in the play action.
Foles has played promisingly for a rookie, but there's no doubt he's had his fair share of struggles. We all know that confidence goes a long way for rookie quarterbacks, so a couple of early touchdown passes could make all the difference in the world.
It's hard to see a scenario where the Eagles start out strong in this one, as they face a hungry team looking for a win to bolster their playoff chances. Foles and the Philly offense will struggle early, and Tampa Bay's strong run defense will make things hard for the Eagles as they'll struggle to put points on the board.
Look for Doug Martin to have another big day and for Josh Freeman to toss a couple of touchdown passes as Tampa rolls at home.
Buccaneers 34, Eagles 16