By Zach Walker
New Orleans Saints vs Philadelphia Eagles
Saturday – January 4 – 7:10 PM
Lincoln Financial Field – Philadelphia
How did these teams get here?
Last year, the Saints were set up to fail, with their coaches suspended for the “Bounty Gate” scandal, and add an absolutely abysmal defense and it was an amazing feat just to get to 7-9, they were running on pure Drew Brees. This season, reunited with head coach Sean Payton, the offense was as sharp as ever, and the hiring of Rob Ryan to fix the defense, has paid off early. The Philadelphia Eagles were awful a year ago, they got rid of long time head coach Andy Reid and brought in Chip Kelly to take the helm. Under Kelly the offense has been as explosive as could be imagined, LeSean McCoy took back his spot as the top running back league, but it wasn’t until quarterback Nick Foles took over, for the injured Michael Vick, did the offense bloom into a top contender.
New Orleans: QB Drew Brees; OG Jahri Evans; OG Ben Grubbs; TE Jimmy Graham; DE Cameron Jordan
Philadelphia: OT Jason Peters; RB LeSean McCoy
How can each team win?
New Orleans Saints: If this game ends up a shoot-out, which it could (and hopefully will), it might be up to the defense of the Saints to staple the game closed for the win. Nick Foles can make every throw, but he holds the ball a long time, and is vulnerable for sacks, Cameron Jordan going against Jason Peters is going to be how the Saints can stop the Eagles on defense. On offense, the Saints have to hope Jimmy Graham is playing with a full deck, health wise, because when healthy, even at 80%, Graham is virtually uncoverable, and Brees knows exactly where to put the ball, even if the coverage looks tight. Kenny Stills stretches the field as well as anybody, and I question who can cover him, stride for stride.
Philadelphia Eagles: Actually, the Eagles offense is quite Saints-like. Not just because they are both quarterbacked by Austin Westlake quarterbacks, but because both offenses love to use the running back in the passing game. Darren Sproles is explosive in the passing game, but you couldn’t convince me that LeSean McCoy is any less dangerous. He’s averaging a dime per catch, and he averages five yards per run. His vision is second to no one, and his cuts absolutely gut defenses. One could argue that Nick Foles’ season is the most impressive of the season, throwing 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions. No one is confusing Foles for Michael Vick, but Foles has shown the ability to take off and pick up first downs. On defense, a young defensive line and mix of experienced linebackers with a young buck in Mychal Kendricks is going to have to contain the running backs of the Saints and get after Drew Brees.
Saints receivers against Eagles cornerbacks and safeties
Quiet difference makers
Saints: Mark Ingram and David Hawthorne
Eagles: Trent Cole and Brandon Boykin
Prediction: Philadelphia 42 – New Orleans 31