Buccaneers vs Eagles Wild Card Round, 2021-2022 Playoff game preview, game and broadcast details, key players, best storylines, injury updates

Shortly after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Super Bowl LV celebrations began to wind down last February, head coach Bruce Arians said something in his final address to the team that he would end up repeating, one way or another, several times during the year 2021. offseason and well in training camp. “When I said goodbye, we said goodbye to this season, to this team,” Arians said. “Next year it’s a different team. When we come back, we’re not Super Bowl champions, we’re just the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.”

The message, of course, is that owning the Lombardi Trophy at the end of one season doesn’t magically make you a title contender the following season. All the hard work is still required, nothing will be handed over to you and there will be many new challenges to overcome.

The Buccaneers took that post to hurt and produced a 13-4 regular season in 2021, tying the league’s best record and setting a new franchise record for wins. They won a division title, something they did not do in 2020, and secured the second seed in the NFC playoff standings, guaranteeing at least one home game, plus another if they can beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium.

And now that the Buccaneers have started a new playoff journey, Arians has a very similar message for his team to the one he delivered last February. These thirteen wins have no bearing on what will follow, other than setting the seeds for the playoffs.

“As soon as everyone entered the building today – 2021 is over,” Arians said Wednesday as the Bucs began their Wild Card training week. “It’s a whole new season, and nothing matters but winning this week, and everyone’s listening. You can feel it in the building.”

The opponent is familiar. Not only did the Bucs and Eagles meet in Week 6, Tampa Bay retaining a 28-22 decision at Lincoln Financial Field on a Thursday night, but Philadelphia is actually the most common playoff opponent in the world. history of the franchise. Tampa Bay and Philly have already met four times in the playoffs, separating them in the middle. The newest brings fondest memories to Bucs fans, as Ronde Barber’s unforgettable 92-yard pick-six sealed a 27-10 win for the visitors in the 2002 NFC Championship game, the last game ever played. at the Veterans Stadium. Tampa Bay would win its first Super Bowl.

On the other hand, the Eagles don’t look exactly like they were 13 weeks ago. The loss to the Bucs sent Philadelphia down to 2-4 and they would also lose two of their next three. But the Eagles turned things around quite suddenly under the guidance of first-year head coach Nick Sirianni and have won six of their last eight games, with the final loss, a meaningless Week 18 game against Dallas during from which Philly mainly played its reserves.

“Oh yes, [they’re] totally different – playing with a ton of confidence, winning a bunch of football games since we’ve played them, ”Arians said. “Once you’re in the playoffs anything can happen, so they’re going to be excited. They have a ton of guns and they look pretty healthy. So, yeah, it’s a whole different football team than the one we played there in October. “

The Eagles revamped their offensive approach to focus on mobile quarterback Jalen Hurts, a solid stable of talented running backs and one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. This led to the emergence of the NFL’s most prolific rushing offense, with the Eagles gaining nearly 160 rushing yards per game. The Eagles’ defense, led by a fierce forward four who puts pressure without a blitz, holds seven of nine opponents under 19 points before this 56-21 loss to Dallas in Week 18.

So the Buccaneers are prepared for an even bigger fight than the one they got against the Eagles in week six, when a game that seemed to be completely under the visiting team’s control turned into a squeaker. in the end as Philadelphia rallied behind two Hurts touchdowns. And that means even though the Bucs played enough to beat the Eagles three months ago, they’ll have to do even better to make two in a row and stay alive in the Super Bowl hunt.

“If we are to win and not come home you have to take it up a notch,” said tight end Rob Gronkowski, who knows a lot about playoff football. “You have to make sure that you are always on top of your game because there are a few times during the season when you are not really on top. Most of the time you are on top of your game in season. regular but now it’s playoff time and you need to make sure you’re amplified, energy level high and ready to play every game because every game is playoff huge playoffs. “

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