Game time: Sunday, Dec. 9, 1:00 p.m. ET, Raymond James Stadium
Weather: mid-70s, rain
Records: Eagles (3-9) at Buccaneers (6-6)
1. Can Nick Foles continue to improve?
Absolutely. He's gotten better since he took over the starting gig in Week 11, and the hope is that he'll show enough over the final month of the season to earn the job heading into 2013. It'll give the organization the freedom to cut ties with Michael Vick, who was signed to a $100 million deal before 2011. Foles could also be a nice incentive for Andy Reid's would-be replacement. (Going to a team with a young promising QB is infinitely more attractive than taking over for, say, the Jags.)
Specifically, Foles has completed close to 70 percent of his throws the last two weeks, and his decision making has improved too. Keep it up and he'll be the Eagles' latest franchise QB.
2. Can Bryce Brown not fumble?
We're less certain about this than No. 1 but that's only because Brown has yet to go 60 minutes without committing a critical turnover. That said, his talent is so overwhelming that you can almost overlook the mistakes. It's not a sustainable model over the long run, but we expect Brown (who wasn't a fumbler in college) to sort this out. We'll find out soon enough because once NFL players find out that you can't hold onto the ball, guess what they're gong to do?
Brown's upside is huge, of course; it would give the Eagles' a legit alternative to LeSean McCoy. It would also mean that (theoretically, anyway), Philly's offense could be really good next year, which also has to be of interest to head-coaching candidates.
3. How will the Eagles' D slow down Vincent Jackson?
Great question. We don't have an answer. Jackson is a 6-5, fast, and strong. The Eagles' secondary has been suspect all season and we wouldn't be surprised if the organization "Babin-ed" Nnamdi Asomugha after this is all over. Philly's best chance to slow the Bucs' offense is to get after quarterback Josh Freeman. And maybe that's the spark Vinny Curry can continue to provide. One problem: if they make the Bucs one-dimensional...
4. And what about Doug Martin?
…That means Tampa Bay can rely on its rookie running back Doug Martin. He's like Brown but more dynamic and without the fumbles. Martin's nickname is "muscle hamster" (he hates it; we love it) and he's been compared to Ray Rice. That's all you need to know, really. Put another way: the Eagles are going to need a complete defensive effort to have a chance to break that eight-game losing streak.
5. Will Andy Reid get fired during the game?
We're half-joking. If owner Jeffrey Lurie hasn't fired Reid yet, presumably he can wait till the end of the month. Either way, with the Chargers reportedly canning Norv Turner, fully expect the "Reid-to-San Diego" rhetoric to ramp up.