3 Reasons Why the Philadelphia Eagles Will Beat the Saints
As the NFL playoffs continue this weekend, the biggest underdog on the four-game slate of divisional-round action is none other than the defending Super Bowl champion. That’s right; the Philadelphia Eagles are +8 ‘dogs at the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. New Orleans rolled to a 13-3 record (with one loss nothing more than meaningless in Week 17) and earned home-field advantage in the NFC with the No. 1 seed thanks to a head-to-head victory over the Rams. Philadelphia scraped into the postseason with a perfect final Sunday: its own win over Washington plus an essential Minnesota loss to Chicago. Now let’s see how the Philadelphia Eagles Will Beat the Saints.
These aren’t the same Eagles
There’s no sugarcoating it; New Orleans lambasted Philadelphia 48-7 at the Superdome in Week 11. While these may not be the same Eagles that won the Super Bowl last season, they also aren’t the same ones who got booted out of the Big Easy with a 41-point loss. Philadelphia fell to 4-6 with that setback, seemingly out of the playoff picture. Head coach Doug Pederson’s squad is 6-1 since, including 4-0 with Nick Foles starting at quarterback. Just as he did near the end of the 2018 campaign, Foles has replaced an injured Wentz (back) under center and is engineering December and January magic.
“I think we’re a different football team now than we were then,” Pederson suggested, referencing the humiliation in New Orleans this past fall. “We’ve just got to put a good plan together in all three phases and go back down there. We’re on the road. It’s going to be in a dome. It’s going to be loud again; all those things. It’s going to be a great atmosphere.”
“Why wouldn’t it be,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said when asked if he thought a rematch with the Saints was possible back after Philadelphia lost to them on Nov. 18. “At that point in time, obviously, that’s the low point of our season. But at no point did we doubt that we have the locker room; we just knew that we had to put it together. Since then, I think we responded and earned our opportunity to go back down there.”
From a talent perspective, it’s hard to consider Foles an upgrade at quarterback over Wentz. But the bottom line right now is that Foles is just working. Although the reigning Super Bowl MVP has thrown at least one interception in each of his four appearances since Wentz went down, he has also passed for at least 221 yards on every occasion. Foles torched Houston for 471 yards and four scores in a huge 32-30 defeat of Houston on Dec. 23. The 29-year-old has tossed multiple scoring strikes in each of his past three starts, including two during last weekend’s dramatic 16-15 win at Chicago. Thanks to those recent performances and especially to last season’s borderline miracle run to the Super Bowl, Foles—and his supporting cast—should be supremely confident.
The Saints may boast one of the most dangerous aerial attacks in football, but it is Philadelphia’s run defense that will be critical this weekend. It is hard to see the Eagles completely shutting down MVP candidate Drew Brees; their only hope is to contain him. How can they accomplish that effort? The visitors can do it by eliminating New Orleans’ run game, thus opening things up for the defense to get after Brees with various blitz packages—focusing almost exclusively on defending the pass. Philly boasts the seventh-ranked run defense in the league at 96.9 yards per game. The Bears rushed for 65 yards on 3.6 yards per carry. In a 24-0 shutout of the Redskins in the regular-season finale, the Eagles held them to an anemic 21 rushing yards on 1.8 yards per attempt.
Meanwhile, Brees has been limited to no more than one touchdown pass in any of his last four outings and a total of three during this alarming stretch. He had previously thrown less than two TDs only twice in the first 11 contests.