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First Crack at Dethroning the Reigning Super Bowl Champs Belongs to Eagles

Philadelphia is the No. 7 seed at 9-8 and they will play Tom Brady and his second-seeded Bucs, who are 13-4, on Sunday

It will be the Eagles who will get the first crack at dethroning the Super Bowl Champions.

The Eagles learned their opponent on Sunday evening, and it will be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady. The matchup was made possible after Tampa and New Orleans won their regular-season finales.

Philadelphia is the seventh seed; the Bucs are the No. 2 seed.

They will meet Sunday at 1 p.m.

The other NFC matchups on wildcard weekend are:

  • No. 6 49ers at No. 3 Cowboys (Sunday 4:30 p.m.).
  • No.5 Cardinals at No. 4 Rams (Monday 8:15 p.m.).

The Packers have a bye as the conference’s No. 1 seed.

The Eagles and Bucs played on Oct. 14, and the Bucs swamped the Eagles early, jumping to a 28-7 lead at Lincoln Financial Field before allowing Philadelphia to get off the mat and close to within 28-22 with just over five minutes to play. 

Brady and his offense, however, didn’t give the Eagles the ball back, running out the rest of the clock.

The slow start in that Week 6 matchup became a theme all season with the Eagles and that is starting games slowly. That is something head coach Nick Sirianni said his team will focus on this week as they prepare for the playoffs.

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“We haven't started fast these last – obviously, (Saturday) on defense we didn't start fast, I thought the offense did a good job starting fast,” the coach said following a 51-26 in the regular-season finale. “We, obviously, want to get our game going quicker than we have the last couple weeks, so that's one area that we need to improve.

“And we know that we're going to be in positions on defense that we're going to have to be able to stop the pass. We’ve done a good job, and tonight was an exception, of stopping the run. We're going to have to be able to stop the pass here moving forward.”

Yes, Brady can pass, becoming the oldest player in NFL history to pass for more than 5,000 yards in the Bucs’ 41-17 win over Carolina on Sunday.

Even without Antonio Brown, who gave the Eagles fits in the first matchup with nine catches on 13 targets for 93 yards and one touchdown, and Chris Godwin, who was lost for the season with a knee injury.

The Bucs still have Mike Evans and tight end Rob Gronkowski. They also have the NFL’s third-ranked rush defense, something.

The Eagles, of course, lead the NFL in rushing and have had 11 straight games rushing for more than 100 yards.

There is a chance that Miles Sanders could return from a broken hand he suffered three weeks.

Philadelphia ended the season at 9-8, but sat at 2-5, before winning six of eight and reeling off four wins in a row before losing to the Cowboys.

The Bucs, who won the Super Bowl last year, ended the season with a 13-4 record.

“Really the same message we've had the entire time, right?” said Sirianni, when asked Saturday night what the point of emphasis will be this week. “So, the first message is – what's that saying, ‘We didn't come this far to only come this far.’ 

"So, let's make sure we're locked into what put us in this position in the first place. Detail in meetings, starting with the coaches going to the players, full speed in walk-through to the snap and then high intensity at practice and just try to get a little bit better each day to put ourselves in position to go 1-0 this week.”

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.