The Eagles will face the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC wild-card round.
Kickoff between the two teams is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. The matchup will be broadcast on FOX.
“We’re really excited to be in the tournament,” first-year coach Nick Sirianni said earlier in the week. “We’re all excited to be in this situation. The goal is obviously to run it out and go as far as we can in this thing.”
During their first meeting on Oct. 15 at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles had a second-half surge, but they weren’t able to overcome the Bucs in a 28-22 defeat. Despite the final six-point differential, the game wasn’t that close. At that point of the season, Sirianni had yet to establish any type of offensive identity. His struggles were magnified in play-calling.
In the Week 6 loss, the Eagles had just one running-back carry in the first half and nine total carries in the game. Miles Sanders had nine rushes for 56 yards, while Boston Scott, Kenneth Gainwell, and Jordan Howard did not register a single carry.
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts completed just 46.1% (12-of-26) of his passes for 115 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Bucs quarterback Tom Brady completed 80.1% (34-of-42) of his throws for 297 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Since then, Sirianni has progressed greatly with his play-calling responsibilities, and his in-game management with Hurts has also improved. The Eagles (9-8) have established themselves as the league’s best rushing team with 100-plus rushing yards in 12 straight games. They benefited from a soft back-end schedule, winning seven of their last 10 games.
The Bucs (13-5) are also a much different team from the squad that traveled to Philadelphia in October. Wide receiver Antonio Brown, who had a game-high nine receptions for 93 yards and one touchdown, is no longer with them following his dramatic exit from last week’s game. Lead running back Leonard Fournette and wide receiver Chris Godwin are also on injured reserve.
The Eagles clinched their playoff spot in Week 17, which allowed them to rest a majority of their starters, including Hurts, for the 51-26 loss to Dallas on Saturday in the regular-season finale. The Eagles also have 11 players still on the reserve/COVID-19 list. On Sunday, a source told The Inquirer a majority of those players are expected to return later this week.
“They got COVID, they weren’t feeling good,” Sirianni said. “They were either symptomatic or they got COVID.”
Of sitting Hurts, who had been dealing with an ankle injury, the coach said, “We just thought this was an opportunity to get him back to 100%. I know we have talked a lot about how we have to be our full arsenal of offense and not have any limitations to do what we want to do in the playoffs.”
Here is the entire NFC playoff picture:
No. 1 Green Bay Packers, bye
No. 2 Buccaneers vs. No. 7 Eagles
No. 3 Dallas Cowboys vs. No. 6 San Francisco 49ers
No. 4 Los Angeles Rams vs. No. 5 Arizona Cardinals