New Orleans Saints (11-5) vs Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
Saturday January 4, 2014 7:10PM Kickoff
Lincoln Financial Field
The Saints and Eagles have met twice in the playoffs. In the 1992 playoffs, the Eagles beat the Saints 36-20 in New Orleans, and in January 2007, New Orleans edged the Eagles 27-24. This is the third playoff meeting between the two and the first post-season game in the City of Brotherly Love between the Saints and the Eagles.
What They are Saying:
Saints Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan on Eagles QB Nick Foles:
“Yeah, we saw him last year twice and this guy is really good. He was excellent last year, so I think he has just matured. I think their system has really helped him become a great quarterback. I think he is a great quarterback. We have our hands full, but I mean, they have so many weapons, and at this time of year there are no weak sisters. You are going to play the best of the best and that is what it should be and we are looking forward to it.”
Saints QB Drew Brees when asked if he feels like the Saints offense has something to prove:
“No, we always have something to prove. But like I said, playoffs kind of mark the start of a new season, a new opportunity. As the sixth seed, you understand that the road you travel is going to be on the road, so you have no other choice. We know what we are capable of, so now it is a matter of putting it all together in preparation throughout the week and going out there and executing.”
Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelley on his offense having to face Saints pass rushers Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan:
“Two outstanding athletes that bring a real good skill set to the game. I knew Cameron a little bit because he was at Cal. So, I faced him when I was at Oregon. Junior was actually at Temple, so the guys around here know him a little bit, but (they are) two very dynamic pass rushers that you have to be aware of where they are. Rob (Ryan) does such a good job of getting that favorable matchup, I think that’s kind of the fun part of coaching, how he’s going to try to get those two matched up against us.”
Eagles QB Nick Foles on his impressive TD to interception ratio:
“I think our guys are doing a great job. Our receivers are doing a really good job of running their routes and if the ball is in harm’s way, they’re getting the ball down and making sure that no one else gets it. Our line has given me time to get through my reads. Tight ends and running backs in the pass game and in pass protection are doing a great job, so it’s giving me time to make decisions and give guys an opportunity. The job of the quarterback is to put the ball in the playmaker’s hands. I’m just trying to do the best I can to give my teammates – to put them in a position to be successful. With that, you have to prepare. There’s a lot of preparation. Our coaching staff does a great job with our game plan and does a great job with giving us information to go out there and puts us in a position to where we can be successful and make plays. I think it’s just a team thing and our coaches and our players and everybody is doing a great job. I know everybody stresses the touchdown to interception radio, but it’s not just me. It’s the guys all around me that are doing a great job and that’s just a great credit to our offense.”
Let’s make this real simple. I know all of you (an me too) are about full and long in the tooth when it comes to hearing predictions and breakdowns of the NFL playoffs this weekend. This game will be won by the team that protects the football the best and the team that can protect their QB the best.
The biggest challenge the Saints face is protecting Drew Brees. Rookie LT Terron Armstead is good, and seemingly can be a great player in the league. But tonight, it’s a step up in class and competition. Armstead is going up against the second greatest sack-getter in Eagles history in Trent Cole. Cole is second only to the late, great Reggie White when it comes to all time sacks in Eagles History. The edge here has to go to the Eagles.
The Saints ability to run the football has to come into question. New Orleans has not rushed the ball well on a consistent basis this season, but in this game, rushing attempts may be as important as rushing yards! If the Saints run 65 offensive plays, I would say that 20 to 25 of those need to be rushing plays. If the Saints have to pass the ball far more than they have to rush it, then that is not a good thing. And now the Saints have to take on the Eagles without their best running back in Pierre Thomas. Thomas not only does well in pass protection, he is the best when it comes to running the screen play.
To an offense that can’t run the football on a regular basis, screen plays mean a lot. So the edge here goes to Philly, as I think they have a better shot at slowing down the Saints rushing attack more so than the Saints have a chance to rush the football with success against the Eagles.
And now, the Eagles offense comes into play. Sure, the Saints have a solid defense that ranks 4th in the NFL. But the Saints are going to get a heavy dose of Eagles RB LeSean McCoy. The NFL rushing leader is a threat rushing the ball as well as catching it. If the Saints slow down Shady, that would be a win for the Black and Gold, and I have to give the edge here to the Eagles.
Finally, I’ll finish up with the coaches. Chip Kelly has done a great job in his first season, but this is the playoffs. And if Sean Payton is one of the best, which everyone agrees he is, then Payton has to have an edge here in coaching. In fact, I would give New Orleans a big edge here when it comes to coaching.
I’ve been taught over the years, bet with your head and not your heart. The Saints lost their last three road games with bad losses to Seattle and St. Louis followed by a season changing 17-13 loss to Carolina that cost the Saints a chance to be off this week and at home next week.
I’ll have to go with my head here and not my heart. Until the Saints win a big game (playoff game) on the road, it makes it easy to go with the other side regardless of the opponent. But the Eagles are a team that began 0-4 at home and they finished up 4-0 at home this season.
In a close one, I’ll say the Eagles by five.