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Game Preview: Eagles vs. Buccaneers – 6 storylines to follow

Jason Kelce
Jason Kelce

A pair of 2-0 teams battle in the heat of a Florida September night, both quite a bit different than the last time they played – two seasons ago in the playoffs with rookie Head Coach Nick Sirianni overseeing a late-year burst to make it to the Wild Card Playoff round. Tampa Bay won that day, and the Eagles used the lessons learned from falling short to address the roster and make a Super Bowl run in 2022. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has transitioned from Tom Brady to Baker Mayfield at quarterback and the Bucs are riding Mayfield's efficiency, a strong passing game, and an airtight defense to wins in consecutive weeks.

Now, onto Monday night and what should be a fascinating matchup. Here are some storylines to watch as the Eagles try to get to 3-0 against Tampa Bay ...

1. The turnover ratio looms large

Mayfield has been at his best in the two wins, largely because he has had great ball security, with zero giveaways. He was 21-of-34 with two touchdown passes in the Week 1 win over Minnesota and then he went 26-of-34 for 317 yards and a TD against Chicago. That's 68 passes without an interception. Tampa Bay has given him solid protection, the Bucs have run the ball just enough, and Mayfield has been efficient.

Tampa Bay also has five takeaways against an Eagles defense/special teams with six takeaways, so the turnover ratio, as always, is a very important statistic to win in this game. It's not a whole lot different than any other game, but it emphasizes one of the primary reasons the Bucs are 2-0: The offense hasn't made mistakes.

2. Eagles offense plays vs. a tough scheme

Todd Bowles has a defense that is tough to play against with a big and physical front, linebackers who are fast and who flow to the football, and a secondary that presents a lot of different looks and plays sticky coverage. The Eagles have talked all week about how the Bucs line up heavy along the line of scrimmage and focus on stopping the run. Tampa Bay is second in the NFL in rushing defense (the Eagles are first) and that makes for a good matchup. This is an experienced group that has chemistry and a lot of confidence.

"They're a multiple defense. They don't just line up the same way," center Jason Kelce said. "They're gonna throw you off. They're going to build a lot of men on the line to take off double teams if they can. They're gonna blitz. He'll do a lot of different things and he has the savviness to know when to implement all of it."

3. And in the middle of that scheme, Vita Vea

He is 346 pounds and is the total package. Vita Vea is going to line up directly over center Jason Kelce at nose tackle and he's going to present problems for both guards. Teams just don't single up against Vea and expect to have a chance, so it will be interesting to see how Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland plays it here. The Eagles obviously don't want to have Vea controlling the line of scrimmage, so the goal is to neutralize him as much as possible. Vea is the total package and the kind of player who can take over a game.

The 2-0 Eagles take flight to battle the 2-0 Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. Photography Director Kiel Leggere provides an exclusive look at the team's preparation.

4. Mike Evans is a lot to handle

In two games, Evans has 12 catches, 237 yards, two touchdowns, and is averaging nearly 20 yards per reception. He's big, strong, fast – a complete wide receiver. He and Mayfield have the chemistry going and there is no doubt that Evans will get a lot of targets (he's had 18 in two games). How will the Eagles play it with a new-look secondary that is missing nickel cornerback Avonte Maddox? James Bradberry is back after missing the Minnesota game with a concussion and Darius Slay is a mainstay and likely to see a lot of Evans, but who do the Eagles put in the slot? How do they match up with Evans and Chris Godwin, another outstanding receiver? Josh Jobe and Mario Goodrich had a lot of reps against Minnesota and could be critical factors in the secondary moving forward.

5. Starting fast and finishing strong

In both games, the Eagles have built big leads and have had to stave off late rallies by New England and Minnesota to emerge victorious. With so many Eagles fans in the stands, this one will feel a lot like another home game on the road. The best way to keep those fans happy and totally into the game: Get out fast and finish strong. The Eagles know they haven't played their best game, so they are looking forward to getting it going early against Tampa Bay offensively and taking the football away defensively. Turning Tampa Bay into a one-dimensional offense is always a goal.

6. Beating the heat in Tampa

It's difficult to emphasize this enough, but the heat will be a factor. It's going to be hot and humid, even with the early-evening kickoff. The Eagles have prepped all week with the message about hydration, but it is always a concern playing in Florida this early in the season. The Bucs are accustomed to playing in these conditions. It was cool and rainy in Philadelphia for much of the practice week. It matters. How the Eagles handle the heat will be an important factor to consider.

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