Two weeks ago the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were playing well and pushing hard for the final NFC playoff berth. After back-to-back losses the Bucs (6-6) sit one game behind Seattle in the race for the sixth seed. The Seahawks have a soft schedule with three home games remaining and only one matchup against a playoff contender. Tampa Bay must beat Philadelphia today to remain in the race.
The Bucs were cruising along thanks to mistake free play from QB Josh Freeman and consistent production from rookie RB Doug Martin. During a four game span Freeman threw for 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. But over the last three weeks the fourth year starter has been picked off three times. Against Denver last week Freeman completed just 46-percent of his passes. As for Martin, he is third in the NFL in rushing. However, during the last couple of weeks he has totaled only 106 yards on the ground while averaging just 2.7 yards a carry.
Meanwhile the Eagles have lost eight straight and will likely have a new coach when next season comes around. That being said, rookie QB Nick Foles, who has taken over for Michael Vick, looked good Monday night against Dallas. Philadelphia may have found a star in RB Bryce Brown. Foles completed 22 of 34 passes against the Cowboys for 251 yards and a touchdown during the 38-33 loss. Brown was even better. He averaged seven yards per carry rushing for 169 yards and two scores. In his first NFL start Brown pilfered Carolina two weeks ago for 178 yards and two touchdowns.
Brown's matchup this week against the Buccaneer defense will be a challenge. Tampa Bay leads the NFL limiting opponents to only 82 yards a game on the ground. The onus will be on Foles to beat the Tampa secondary. The Bucs have yielded a league worst 309 passing yards per contest.
After starting the season 1-3, Tampa went on a scoring surge. The Buccaneers averaged nearly 38 points a game during a span of six weeks that saw Tampa win five times. During the two game losing skid the Bucs have scored 23 points each of the last two weeks.
The Eagles have allowed 30 points or more in four straight games. The Bucs must keep that trend going to breathe life in the race for the final NFC playoff spot.