The second game of the day in Saturday’s Wildcard action has the Philadelphia Eagles hosting the New Orleans Saints. Unlike the first game of the day between the Chiefs and Colts, this game has the potential to be a very high scoring shootout. The brief playoff history between these two teams has seen two meetings, where each team has won once. In the 1993 Wildcard Playoffs, the Eagles beat New Orleans 36-20, and the Saints returned the favor in the 2007 Divisional Playoffs by beating Philly 27-24.
In recent meetings, the Saints have gotten the better of the Eagles. On November 5th 2012, the Saints beat the Eagles 28-13 and in the prior matchup in 2009, New Orleans beat the Eagles in Philly, 48-22. Overall the Eagles hold a 16-12 advantage all-time, but the Saints have won 4 of the last 5 matchups. For them to make that 5 out of 6, the Saints will have to overcome some pretty deep road woes. After winning their first two road games of the season, the Saints lost 5 of their last 6. The only win being over the injury plagued Atlanta Falcons 17-13. To beat the Eagles in Philly, the Saints will have to slow down Philly’s hot offense, while dodging Philly’s cold weather. Here’s why that’s not a good combination…….
WHEN THE SAINTS HAVE THE BALL: Drew Brees has had a pretty ho-hum season by his standards, but ho-hum for Drew Brees makes the Saints very dangerous. Jimmy Graham, of course is Brees’ favorite target and a matchup nightmare for anyone. Graham, opens up the field for Marques Colston, Lance Moore, and Kenny Stills to do their dirty work. He also can help open up the running game, which has been a lot better in the second half of the season. It may be vital for the Saints to have success running the ball. Long, ball controlling possessions will help their defense stay fresh against Chip Kelly’s fast paced offense. There should be plenty of opportunities for big plays, as the Eagles defense has given up their share this season, but lately the Eagles D has been stout including an impressive dismantling of the Bears high-powered offense in Week 16. The Eagles are a very opportunistic defense as indicated by their +12 (31 – 19) turnover ratio. It will be very important for the Saints to take care of the ball. Something they’ve struggled to do on the road.
WHEN THE EAGLES HAVE THE BALL: Don’t blink because you might miss it. The Eagles offense is explosive. There’s just no other way to say it, but this isn’t exactly how Chip Kelly drew it up before the season. The quarterback was Michael Vick, not Nick Foles. While Foles had his chances to win the starting job coming into the season, Vick was the man. After a few subpar performances from the offense, and an injury to Vick, Foles became the man. The Eagles have soared ever since. The star of the show isn’t Foles, its LeSean ‘Shady’ McCoy. He makes this offense go, because you have to know where he is at all times, and you have to respect his running. McCoy, was built for this type of offense. An offense that spreads the field like few offenses ever have in the NFL, and with talent like DeSean Jackson. This offense puts a lot of pressure on defenders, because they’re usually having to tackle players like McCoy and Jackson in space. Which is very difficult. The Saints D, however, is really capable of taking over a game. Defensively, the Saints have been quite surprising on the way to giving up slightly over 19 points per game. The defense has drastically improved from last season, under the direction of Rob Ryan. To be successful tonight, the Saints must tackle well, but they must also get help from their offense in keeping the Eagles offense on the sideline.
OUTCOME: The playoffs are usually not the place for a team to get better on the road. Tonight looks to be no different for the Saints, even though I have no doubt that they’re the better team overall. Preparing for the Eagles offense and the cold that awaits them in Philadelphia will not be easy, and will likely end in another early playoff exit.
EAGLES 34 SAINTS 27