Bye Week Briefing – How Will the Bucs and Eagles Respond?

Two teams in vastly different circumstances have week 7 off. The Bucs are 1-5 and the only reason their coaching staff doesn’t fear getting fired is because it’s their first year in Tampa. The Eagles are coming off a resounding win against a division rival (NY Giants), stand at 5-1, and can use this week to prepare for a stretch of road games. What should we expect out of the Bucs and Philadelphia when they return to action?

Two teams in vastly different circumstances have week 7 off. The Bucs are 1-5 and the only reason their coaching staff doesn’t fear getting fired is because it’s their first year in Tampa. The Eagles are coming off a resounding win against a division rival (NY Giants), stand at 5-1, and can use this week to prepare for a stretch of road games. What should we expect out of the Bucs and Philadelphia when they return to action?

Tampa Bay can thank the Jaguars and, to a lesser extent, the Raiders, for ensuring that they enter their bye week without the label of “worst team in the league”. Their -84 point differential is second worst in the NFL, and it would have been difficult to play much worse than they did in a 48-17 home loss to Baltimore on Sunday. The Bucs trailed the Ravens 28-0 after one quarter and 38-0 midway through the second stanza. (Understandably, not many Tampa fans stuck around for the latter half of the game.) Tampa Bay opened the year with close losses at home to Carolina and St. Louis before being torched at Atlanta in week 3. They pulled off a surprise win at Pittsburgh (27-24) on September 28 before falling 37-31 in overtime at New Orleans – one of the hardest stadiums in which to win – in week 5. After the Pittsburgh and New Orleans games, it looked like Tampa had turned a corner. Then came Sunday’s meltdown against the Ravens. While the Bucs have struggled in all facets of the game, they have been particularly bad on third down. The Bucs have converted 37.3% of their third down tries, 26th in the league, and have allowed opponents to convert 49.4% of the time, third worst in the NFL.

Sitting at 0-3 at home, both straight up and against the spread, Tampa Bay hosts the Vikings following their bye, then travels to Cleveland and Atlanta in weeks 9 and 10. The Bucs have not had a winning record against the spread at home since 2007 and are 17-30-2 versus the number in front of their fans over the past seven seasons. That said, Tampa Bay has been very good after bye weeks recently, as has their new coach, Lovie Smith. The Bucs are 5-2 following a rest since 2007, while Smith, who spent nine years as the head man in Chicago, went 6-1 following the rest week during his last seven seasons in the Windy City. (The Bears did lose their first two post-bye games under Smith, however.)

The Eagles have scored at least 27 points in five wins this year, with their lone setback a 26-21 defeat at San Francisco in week 4. They opened the year with a come-from-behind 34-17 win against Jacksonville, beat the Colts in Indianapolis 30-27 in week 2 (a feat that is looking more impressive by the week), and got by Washington 37-34 in week 3. After falling to the Niners, Philadelphia rebounded with a 34-28 victory against the Rams and a 27-0 blowout against the Giants. The Eagles’ +51 point differential is tops in the NFC. Interestingly, the Eagles are winning despite running back LeSean McCoy’s numbers dropping significantly. McCoy is averaging a career low 3.6 yards per carry and he has just one touchdown this season. There were signs of life against the Giants in week 6, though, as McCoy had a season-high 148 yards and averaged 6.8 yards per carry.

After the bye, Philadelphia travels to Arizona and Houston. The Eagles are 1-1 straight up and against the spread on the road this year after going 6-2 overall and 5-3 against the number away from home last year. Coach Chip Kelly is in his second season and performed well after a week 12 bye last year, beating the Cardinals 24-21 at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles followed that up with three more wins in four tries.