“I would say just from a global offensive perspective, the timing of their routes are very, very, very good,” Gannon said. “The distribution of their concepts is very good. The ball, obviously, comes out extremely fast, it’s on time. And in the passing game, just like on defense, you got to have all 11 executing at a high level. You see whoever’s out there for them, they all execute at a very high level. Their offensive line is very good, they have a lot of continuity with their offensive line. Tom is on the same page with all the receivers and the backs. They know how to adjust their routes based off coverage. When they call certain concepts, the spacing is spot on, the timing is spot on, and they execute at a high level. Their technique within that is very good.
“So, that’s what sticks out on the tape more than the people. We know have they have weapons all over, but it’s the same page and the continuity and the execution level is very high.”
The key to getting the best of Brady, then? It’s something few defenses are able to do, but it has been done.
“Get him out of his comfort zone a little bit,” Gannon said. “He typically has success versus most people, but I do think that we’ve got to be able to get him a little bit out of rhythm with the different tools that we have to do that.”
It’s probably going to be a bad-weather game—- chilling winds 20-30 mph combined with rain. That might be an omen which plays to the Eagles’ strength in the running game. Philadelphia, led by the legs and arm of Jalen Hurts, owns the NFL’s best rushing offense (159.7 rushing yards per game), but will now face a Tampa Bay defense that surrendered the third-fewest (92.5) rushing yards per game in the regular season. Hurts, in addition to throwing for 3,144 passing yards and 16 touchdowns, also led the club in both rushing yards (784) as well as rushing touchdowns (10). In fact, the sophomore signal caller led all NFL quarterbacks in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.
In the passing attack, rookie wideout DeVonta Smith and dangerous pass-catching tight end Dallas Goedert are the club’s top weapons. Smith, who led the club in receptions (64) and receiving yards (916), has produced consistent production down the stretch posting 40-plus receiving yards in seven of the last nine games. Goedert has become an integral part of the offense over the last four weeks, recording 21 receptions and 339 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
The ground game could work for the Bucs, too. On the ground, it is expected that the Buccaneers will be without running Ronald Jones (ankle). The fourth-year back has been starting in place of Leornard Fournette (hamstring) since Week 15. However, the team is optimistic that Fournette will be able to return just when the club needs him most. Last season, the talented veteran was instrumental in the club’s run to a Super Bowl victory. In the first matchup between the two clubs in Week 6, the powerful Fournette ran for a game-high 81 rushing yards and two touchdowns while adding six receptions for 46 yards in the passing game.
No matter how you handicap it, the game boils down to fundamental running, catching, blocking and tackling. No way around the fundamentals, as Palmy would say. So the Eagles have a puncher’s chance despite going into this as 8-point underdogs. Tampa Bay heads into the postseason having won seven of their last eight games despite losing several key offensive players. Chris Godwin was lost for the season in Week 15 with a torn ACL against the Saints. Two weeks ago, Antonio Brown quit the team during the team’s game against the Jets. If any club can still find a way to win, despite losing key offensive weapons, it’s a squad led by Tom Brady.
The question for bettors is easy: Are you willing to lay the second-biggest spread on the board for the opening round or fade the G.O.A.T in the playoffs? In his prestigious career, Brady has 34 playoff wins.
Palmy would say follow your gut on what the trends and the weather reports are telling you: this game is destined for unpredictability. Enjoy the ride.