The Saints locker room had a touch of an auto supply shop to it this week. Sure, there were helmets, shoulder pads, cleats and laundry bags... but the players also had 2-gallon gas canisters at their lockers. Is there enough gas left in the tank? Does the Black and Gold have fuel for the fight? Will the Saints run out of "juice" against a gas-burning sports car offensive attack from the Eagles? Right now, the Saints are topped off and ready for an extended road playoff push.
The Saints have everything to gain and nothing to lose. They're 2.5 point underdogs in Philadelphia. The Saints are the sixth seed. New Orleans hasn't won a playoff game on the road in the history of the franchise. The Eagles have won four straight games at home. The Saints defense can't force enough turnovers to make a difference. The Saints have the highest home/road point differential in the NFL (16.5) this season. No way they can win, right?
Not only can they win, but they can turn the playoff picture on its ear Saturday night. I can't really rationalize the reason I'm picking the Saints to win this game, other than history has to break at some point. Oh, plus I think the Black and Gold are just a better team. Did I mention the Eagles score too fast, and the Saints possess the ball for over 32 minutes per ball game? Typically, for teams facing the Drew Brees-led offense, their strategy is to keep him and his array of weapons on the sidelines as a specatator. The Eagles average under 27 minutes in time of possession per game. Brees and company will get their chances to zero in on the leagues worst-ranked pass defense.
History says the Saints can't win on the road, evidenced by their 0-5 record right? Or does it? History has a strange way of repeating itself, and also has a strange way of making prognosticators look foolish. Be careful when lumping Saints teams of the past in with this one. I've grown increasingly optimistic with this match-up. It's tailor-made for them. The Eagles are not a bruising, physical team on par with San Francisco or Carolina, and to a degree, Seattle. The Saints have the playoff experience over the Eagles. Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees all struggled in their first playoff action. Nick Foles will make his first post-season start against New Orleans.
I don't just like the Saints to win. I like them to win convincingly. I saw a team this week that has truly embraced the road mentality needed to go on the road and play well! I also saw an offense in the week 17 season finale that resembled more of the 2011 record-setting offense than at any point this season. Brees spread the football around to his vast array of weapons. The Saints operated with great rhythm and tempo in that game. Plus, they changed their pre-game meal, the flavor of the Gatorade, injected hip-hop music at practice, and they switched up the "routine" (yes, that last comment was dripping with sarcasm).
New Orleans 27-14 over Philadelphia. Sequel in Seattle, anyone?