Close and Open

The Eagles are not as strong as they were last year. Hugh Douglas is in Jacksonville, and Buccaneer killer Brian Mitchell is a Giant. Rookie defensive end Jerome McDougle has a bad ankle and will miss the opener Monday night. Duce Staley held out so long that he lost his job to Correll Buckhalter. The Eagles peaked last year and are now on their way down the NFC ladder.

Remember all that talk of how the Bucs could not win in cold weather, actually that might have been true. Now it is the Bucs' turn to establish a little head game, the one that has the Eagles thinking they can't beat the Bucs in Philadelphia. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to add insult to injury to the Bucs' most hated rival. The team that wins Monday night will be undefeated at Lincoln Financial Field, and a whole new head game will follow.

Last year's NFC Championship game is still fresh in the minds of the Eagles who did not jump ship for big money. The crowd is going to be certifiable, and both teams will be playing there for the first time. The home field advantage for this game is not as great as people think. The emotions will be running high, so look for mistakes by Eagles trying to do too much or playing without discipline due to the electricity that will definitely be coursing through the air early in the game.

The Eagles do have an outstanding offensive line, arguably the Bucs' weakest link. Buckhalter does not have the big play ability that Staley does but Coach Andy Reid is no Dummy; Staley will play. The real issue with Staley is: Will his line put out for him after he held out for so long. Locker room politics play a large role on NFL teams, ask Rickey Watters, especially when a superstar puts himself before the rest of his team.

Look for the Bucs to try and put their defense on the field first in what is sure to be a hostile environment. Next watch for an early mistake on offense that leads to a Buccaneer defensive touchdown. If this happens the Bucs will win in a blow out. The worst-case scenario is for the Bucs to defer the kickoff and have the Eagles march down the field for a touchdown. However, this is unlikely due to the fact that the Bucs' defense is still the best in the league, and don't forget that Simeon Rice has had Donovan McNabb's number since they were kids.

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