The National Football League will stage three Wild Card games today beginning with a 10:00 a.m. (PT) matchup between the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the other most recent NFC Super Bowl winner, the Philadelphia Eagles.
The later games find the Dallas Cowboys hosting the San Francisco 49ers and the night contest will be played at Arrowhead Stadium where the Kansas City Chiefs entertain the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The only weather concern for the day is in Tampa, where the morning rain should end before kickoff but winds of 20 miles per hour could do as much to defend passing games as defensive backs.
While it is true that the Buccaneers and Eagles are the two most recent National Football Conference teams to win the Super Bowl, the Eagles have made wholesale changes at a number of key positions since they downed Tom Brady and his New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. That Eagles team had Nick Foles at quarterback and Doug Pederson was the head coach.
Philadelphia comes into action today with second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts behind center and first-year head coach Nick Sirianni.
The key to the Buccaneers Super Bowl triumph last season was spearheaded by the man that led the Patriots to six Super Bowl victories, Quarterback Tom Brady. In his first season with Tampa Bay, Brady added a seventh Vince Lombardi Trophy to his credit. The GOAT has won more Super Bowls, seven, than any franchise in NFL history.
The Buccaneers open the postseason as the second seed in the NFC playoffs. They ended the regular season with as many wins, 13, as the NFC top seed Green Bay Packers, but lost the opening week playoff bye to a tiebreaker. Last year, in their Super Bowl winning season, the Buccaneers entered the postseason as a fifth seed. Brady led three straight road postseason victories at Washington, New Orleans and Green Bay before capturing Super Bowl LV over the Kansas City Chiefs in his home stadium.
The wind at Raymond James Stadium could be a factor that inhibits both teams passing games, and the Buccaneers are already missing a trio of Brady’s primary targets for various reasons. Chris Goodwin was lost for the season with an achilles injury and Mike Evans has still not recovered enough from the hamstring injury he suffered four weeks ago during a loss to the New Orleans Saints on the road. Controversial wideout Antonio Brown blew up his best chance to continue in the NFL with an outburst that got him cut a couple weeks ago during a narrow road win over the New York Jets.
What we have here is a defending champ who opened their Super Bowl season last year with a win, but point spread loss, to the Washington Football Team, now opening defense of their title against an inexperienced Eagles squad while undermanned offensively,
Tampa Bay opened as an 8½ point favorite, a line that grew to as high as 9½ during the week while the public backed Brady and company. Today, that line has been sliced to 7 points even while the public action continues to pile on the Buccaneers side of the wager.
A point spread can move against public action for a couple basic reasons. First, the amount of money on a team is more important than the number of players who have wagered on a particular contest. We can see that the money is on the Eagles plus the points while the individual wagers are backing the home team in today’s opening Wild Card contest.
The line shift by the wise guys can be traced to the injuries the Buccaneers are facing coming into this game. In addition to missing a few key receivers, Tampa Bay will also be without leading ground gainers Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones.
I am not as tied to injuries as wise guys are, I think motivation can compensate for the loss of a player and sometimes we get a boost in a team’s effort who are missing a key player. The Bucs have the only key player they really need to win, Brady, but without a number of his targets I agree that the points are too high to lay and expect the Eagles to be competitive on the scoreboard and clip the spread.
Qoxhi Picks: Philadelphia Eagles (+7) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers