Breakout Live breaks down the pluses and minuses of the Eagles and Saints heading into their showdown in the divisional playoff round.
+ There’s a mystical and mythical quality that now surrounds Nick Foles. The backup who became Super Bowl MVP only to become backup again is back leading the Eagles on another playoff run. The Eagles likely don’t even make the playoffs with Carson Wentz, and here they are winners over the Bears at Chicago and onto a rematch with the Saints. If any team believes they can win it all, it’s the Eagles. Foles does what Wentz cannot and vice-versa. While Wentz is more gifted, Foles plays within the construct of Pederson’s well-built offense. Darren Sproles still has life in those old legs of his and has been a boon to the offense. Alshon Jeffery and Golden Tate form a competent WR duo and Zach Ertz continues to be one of the best tight ends in the game. The Eagles are driven on both sides of the ball by stellar line play. While there are some deficiencies, Fletcher Cox and PFF’s top-rated front 7 help hide them with their aggressive attacking style. The hunger to erase the taste from their mouths from the 48-7 drubbing at the hands of the Saints has to be a great motivation for the Eagles, as some of them felt the Saints ran up the score.
– The Eagles secondary is a major weak spot and one Drew Brees exploited in their first matchup. Saints wide receivers were running wide open all over the field. Unlike the Chargers, who were the first team to face Lamar Jackson and the Ravens a second time, and were looking forward to the challenge, one has to believe the Eagles are dreading another aerial assault on Sunday at the hands of Drew Brees. The Saints defense finished 2nd overall vs. the run, so the Eagles are going to be one-dimensional putting it all on Nick Foles in a raucous Super Dome. The Saints finished tied for 4th overall in sacks with 49, so the Foles that showed in Chicago better not be the same one that shows in New Orleans. Eagles DC Jim Schwartz is going to have to send the house to combat the Saints high-octane offense, exposing that fragile secondary beyond its limits. Mark Ingram got them for over 100 yards on the ground last time, and with them gearing up to stop the pass, both Ingram and Kamara might be too difficult to control.
New Orleans Saints
+ Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, a fully healthy offensive line and defense that feeds off the energy in the Super Dome, make the Saints appear an impenetrable fortress. Outside of a game where they rested their starters, nobody’s gotten them at home, save for Tampa and that was way back in Week 1 when Fitzmagic was casting spells that actually worked. Six times this season the Saints scored 40 or more. The Eagles high-water mark in 2018 was 34 from Carson Wentz vs. the Giants, making it very difficult and unlikely the Eagles can keep pace and match New Orleans blow for blow no matter how charmed Nick Foles is. The Saints amassed 49 sacks, tied for 4th in the league, and got to Wentz three times, but you have to wonder how interested the Saints were after being up more than three scores. Carl Cheffers’ crew drew the Saints/Eagles officiating assignment and the Saints are 11-1 in games Cheffers’ crew has officiated. He was also the official for the 48-7 Saints rout of the Eagles in Week 11.
– After their Week 13 upset loss at Dallas, the Saints offense was not the same unit we saw the first 12 weeks of the season. In that game, Drew Brees passed for just over 100 yards and the Saints scored just 10 points. The Saints wouldn’t come close to tasting another 40-burger on offense, hitting over 30 just one time over their final 4 games. The Saints have been in coast mode for awhile. Their win over the Rams gave them the tiebreaker and they took advantage of it by resting their starters in a Week 17 loss to the Panthers. A team that struggled down the stretch chose to shut it down completely rather than to work on things. We’ve seen many cases of teams resting players and coming out not ready to play. The Saints have to crank up to playoff intensity vs. a team they mutilated 48-7 in Week 11, and who believes they ran up the score. The team whose intensity they have to rise to meet is now quarterbacked by Nick Foles, who does nothing but win time and time again when nobody believes he can. Let’s not forget these Eagles are also the reigning Super Bowl Champions. Karma could be no friend to the Saints for their running up of the score in the first meeting, and compounding things are the ghosts from the Minneapolis Miracle that will visibly appear should the Eagles hang with the Saints deep into the 4th quarter.