The Eagles are headed back to the Big Easy with revenge on their mind.
Here’s my “five things” for this highly anticipated rematch with the Saints…
- The Saints D is pretty good
The common myth about the Saints is that they have a bad defense. However, that isn’t really true.
They rank 14th in both yards (349.1) and points (22.1) per-game, and are second in the league against the run allowing only 80.2 yards-per-game.
Lately they have been really good in almost every area…
Tied for first in takeaways really stands out in this graphic. I know I harped on this point last week and it essentially didn’t play a role, but I can’t see the Eagles losing the turnover battle and winning this game.
Bears were +2 in turnovers Sunday vs. Eagles. Home teams that were +2 in the playoffs the past 40 years were 112-4.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 7, 2019
The Saints have been solid as of late, but are vulnerable in two major areas that play right into the Eagles hands.
They are 24th in the league on third down, allowing teams to convert 41.3 percent of the time. Meanwhile, the Eagles, and Nick Foles especially, have been fantastic on third down.
Nick Foles on 3rd and 4th down yesterday: 8-for-11 [73%], 79 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 122.9 passer rating
Foles in his postseason career on 3rd and 4th down: 40-for-52 [77%], 522 yards, 6 TDs, 0 INT, 146.5 passer rating
— Reuben Frank (@RoobNBCS) January 7, 2019
The Saints are also 29th in the league vs the pass, allowing 268.9 YPG. They were lit up at home by the Steelers in week 16. Big Ben threw for 380 yards, 3 TDs and zero INTS. Antonio Brown went for 185 yards, and JuJu Smith-Schuster also went for 115 yards.
I would expect the Eagles to air it out on this leaky Saints secondary.
- Under Pressure
The Eagles o line has been great over the last month…
Aaron Donald (20.5), J.J. Watt (16), Khalil Mack (12.5) combined for 49 sacks this season. ZERO vs. the #Eagles
— Rob Maaddi (@RobMaaddi) January 7, 2019
They will have yet another challenge on Sunday. As you saw in the graphic above, the Saints have the most sacks in the NFL since week 10.
They get consistent pressure from a number of different players…
Cam Jordan- 12 sacks
Sheldon Rankins- 8 sacks
Demario Davis- 5 sacks
David Onyemata- 4.5 sacks
Marcus Davenport- 4.5 sacks
Alex Okafor- 4 sacks
Nick Foles, who has been money when under pressure…
2018 passer rating while under pressure (rank out of 38 QBs)
Nick Foles 90.6 (1st)
Dak Prescott 87.1 (3rd)
Philip Rivers 83.8 (7th)
Drew Brees 79.5 (11th)
Andrew Luck 73.4 (19th)
Tom Brady 71.2 (21st)
Patrick Mahomes 70.4 (22nd)
Jared Goff 59.8 (28th)
— Pat Thorman (@Pat_Thorman) January 9, 2019
…can continue to help out his line by getting rid of the ball quickly.
During the season’s final month (plus the WC round), no QB had a quicker average time to attempt a pass than Nick Foles’ 2.22 seconds.
— Pat Thorman (@Pat_Thorman) January 9, 2019
This isn’t exactly rocket science, but on the other side of the ball, the Eagles need another strong effort from their D line.
This season, Brees was the highest rated passer from “Inside the Pocket” with a 118.7 passer rating & 77% comp.
— Ron Jaworski (@JawsCEOQB) January 9, 2019
If Brees is sitting comfortably in the pocket, it will be a long day.
- Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram
Off the field, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram have provided the Eagles with a ton of extra motivation for Sunday…
Alvin Kamara thinks things would’ve gone differently last season if the Saints beat the Vikings: “We’d beat the s–t out of [the Eagles] cuz we was rolling.” 👀 https://t.co/06KMmfyAYH pic.twitter.com/WI2b8oDaj5
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 8, 2018
Alvin Kamara wore a ski mask after the game.
Mark Ingram: “There’s a lot of fraudulents out there, so we gotta let them boys know who the real ski mask shawties is.” pic.twitter.com/BKfdX3fz5a
— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) December 24, 2018
On the field, they provide the Eagles with a major challenge.
Back in week 11, the duo combined for 211 total yards (174 rushing) and 3 touchdowns.
The Eagles, who have been torn up this season by some of the best backs in the league, have been much better against the run as of late..
Eagles' run defense allowed 4.7 YPC during the regular season, it's down to 2.5 YPC over their last four games.
— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) January 8, 2019
Last week they were able to keep a poor mans version, Tarik Cohen (0 yards rushing, 27 receiving) and Jordan Howard (35 yards rushing) in check.
In the Saints week 13 loss at Dallas, Kamara was held to 72 total yards and Ingram had only 27 yards on 7 carries. Both were held out of the end zone.
Drew Brees is going to get his regardless, so if the Eagles want to win this game they will have to at least contain Kamara and Ingram.
- The Sproles factor
This will be Darren Sproles’ first trip back to New Orleans.
Saints’ Sean Payton understands Eagles' Darren Sproles significance this time https://t.co/TE44kAXKEw
— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) January 10, 2019
Last week I mentioned the “Alshon factor” and he delivered. This week, I could see Sproles playing a huge role, especially in the screen game to help negate the Saints pass rush.
- Will rest lead to rust?
Ever since the Eagles received that 48-7 beat-down in New Orleans on November 18th, they have been playing for their playoff lives. Now seven weeks later they head back to New Orleans as winners of six of their last seven games, including four in a row, with all the momentum in the world.
Meanwhile, the Saints have been sleepwalking.
The numbers tell the story…
Eagles > Saints since they lost 48-7 in New Orleans 🤔
Last 6 games regular season:
(Saints did rest starters last game)
Eagles O: 27 points, 382 yards
Saints O: 21 points, 299 yards
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) January 9, 2019
Will the Saints be able to flip the switch?
The Eagles find themselves in a very familiar position. For the 5th straight playoff game they are an UNDERDOG.
This time they find themselves playing in quite possibly the most hostile environment in the entire league. A place where Sean Payton and Drew Brees have never lost a playoff game.
EVERYONE is picking the Saints……
……and rightfully so.
The Saints have been the best team in the NFC all year long, and are the odds on favorite to represent the conference in the Super Bowl.
So…. why the hell am I so confident that the Eagles can walk into New Orleans and pull off the upset?
There are two factors that I believe will play a major role.
The first is Revenge.
Tony Dungy started this yesterday.. but here’s 5 times that heavy underdogs got revenge in the divisional round of the playoffs or later… #Eagles. Tweet @branded_sports any you can remember that I didn’t list! #Revenge https://t.co/VzKsbkAPrr
— Brian McLaughlin (@B_McGLOCK) January 8, 2019
I’ve been preaching it ALL WEEK. This is the ultimate revenge game for the Philadelphia Eagles. I have seen this story play out too many times before.
That 48-7 blowout will not only be a factor, it will be a catalyst for an upset victory.
The other factor is rust.
While the Eagles have been in survival mode since week 12, the Saints have been coasting to the # 1 seed.
The Eagles will need to take advantage of any early rust and get off to a hot start. They are 7-1 when they score first this season. If they are going to pull the upset they have to set the tone early.
I do have one bold prediction…
Just like Cody Parkey, Taysom Hill has been a disaster waiting to happen all season. I’m predicting he will have a crucial turnover on Sunday.
Overall, I think this will be a close game throughout and probably come down to the wire.
Call me crazy, but in the end I believe Nick Foles and the underdogs will pull off the monumental upset and head back to the NFC Championship Game.
Eagles 27 Saints 24