The Eagles have won 6 straight games on Thursday Night Football, but this one is going to be quite a doozy. The 2-3 Birds will be matched up against Tom Brady’s 4-1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home in this week six matchup.
Here’s three storylines for Thursday night.
Key to beating the Bucs
It might be silly to say a game falls on a single player’s shoulders, but it feels that way when it comes to Jalen Hurts Thursday night. If the Eagles want to pull off an upset over the Tampa Bay Bucs, it has to start with the quarterback, Jalen Hurts.
The Birds just aren’t going to be able to rely on their defense as heavily as they did against the Carolina Panthers last week. There’s good reason to believe Tom Brady and his weapons are going to be able to put up quite a few points on this defense.
We’ve yet to see defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s unit have a strong answer for an above average quarterback thus far.
The realistic hope is that that defense doesn’t get totally obliterated. That they force field goals and maybe even come away with a turnover somehow. If they can keep the Bucs in the low 30s, you’ll take that.
The responsibility, then, is on the offense to deliver. The Eagles likely won’t be able to run the ball efficiently on Tampa’s tough front. The Bucs are allowing the lowest opponent yards per rush attempt (2.9). Against the pass is where their defense is not as good. The Bucs are missing a number of key defenders such as Lavonte David, Antoine Winfield Jr., Carlton Davis III, and Sean Murphy-Bunting.
Assuming the offensive line can hold up well enough against the Bucs’ pass rush, which is no easy task, there will be opportunities for Hurts to make plays with his arm. And it’s crucial that he takes advantage. The margin for error figures to be slim in this matchup so he can’t continue to leave big plays on the field. He has to feed DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins early and often.
If you go by the quarterbacks he’s beaten thus far (Taysom Hill, Matt Ryan at the end of his rope, Sam Darnold), the case can be made that Hurts lacks a “signature win” to this point in his young career. There’s no better opportunity to go out and make a statement than by outgunning the greatest player in NFL history.
Time to see if Hurts can rise to the challenge.
Johnson and Goedert out
Lane Johnson will miss a third consecutive game because of personal reasons.
The Eagles list Johnson as out on their Wednesday injury report for Thursday night.
Johnson, 30, played every offensive snap in the Eagles’ first three games but was a late scratch for the October 3 game against the Kansas City Chiefs for personal reasons, and he hasn’t practiced or played since.
Since the Eagles drafted Johnson fourth overall in 2013, they’re 59-43 when he starts and finishes (.573) and 10-14-1 when he doesn’t (.420).
On Monday, coach Nick Sirianni said he didn’t know whether Johnson would return to the team this year.
With Jordan Mailata back after missing two weeks with a knee injury, the Eagles in their win over the Carolina Panthers used Andre Dillard at left tackle, Landon Dickerson at left guard, Jack Driscoll at right guard, and Mailata at right tackle, and Nick Sirianni indicated he would start those four at the same spots along with Jason Kelce at center on Thursday night.
Dillard, Dickerson, Driscoll, and Mailata have 11 combined career starts at their current positions.
Johnson, a three-time Pro Bowler, has started only 58 of a possible 85 games since the start of the 2016 season.
Along with Johnson, Dallas Goedert is out Thursday night, but for a different reason.
The Eagles on Tuesday afternoon placed tight end Dallas Goedert on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, meaning the Eagles will be without one of their best players Thursday night.
This is obviously a big blow for an Eagles team about to face the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Goedert tested positive, but is vaccinated, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported.
Goedert, 26, has 15 catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns this season in a contract year.
Without Goedert, the Eagles have Ertz and Jack Stoll as the only tight ends on the roster. They also brought back Noah Togiai to the practice squad on Monday, so he could be a possible elevation for this game.
In addition to Goedert, offensive lineman Sua Opeta also remains on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
Brady dealing with hand problems
Tom Brady, who was seen with his right hand wrapped on Sunday evening, reportedly has a thumb injury but will play Thursday night.
Brady, 44, continues to defy aging. He threw five touchdown passes in the Buccaneers’ 45-17 win over the Dolphins.
While he’s going to play on Thursday night as the Buccaneers come to town, we should at least keep this injury in mind. Dealing with a thumb injury on his throwing hand could affect Brady. The Eagles can’t complain about that.
On the season, Brady leads the NFL in passing yards with 1,767 and is second behind Patrick Mahomes in touchdown passes with 15.
In his career (playoffs included), Brady is 5-2 against the Eagles. One of those losses was in Super Bowl LII. Brady last played the Eagles in 2019, a 17-10 Patriots victory. This will be his first time facing the Eagles as a Buc.