NFC Divisional Weekend Preview: Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints

NFC Divisional Weekend Preview: Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints
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The almost unthinkable occurred last weekend, as the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the best defence in all of football. Led by Nick Foles, the Chicago Bears’ season was abruptly concluded by Cody Parkey’s ‘double doink’, and just like that the Eagles advanced to the Divisional Round of the Playoffs. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they must now travel to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Their opposition, the New Orleans Saints, are arguably the most complete team in the NFL. That said, never count out Foles because when that occurs, the Eagles always win. 

Eagles Offence Firing On All Cylinders 

The Nick Foles/Alshon Jeffrey connection was reignited last weekend, as the two combined for 82 yards. Jeffrey’s 6 catches compiled an average of 13.1 yards per reception. This bond will be absolutely vital once more, having not been there for the majority of the season under Carson Wentz, it appears that Foles and Jeffrey simply perform on the same wavelength. 

Speaking of Foles, he performed in the similar gun-slinging fashion we all know and love. He concluded Sunday’s game with 25 completions for 266 yards and 2 touchdowns. As evidenced, he was fearless in his performance, which ultimately handed the Bears 2 interceptions. On the other hand, it’s almost a given that Foles produces a pick in every game he plays, and clearly it hasn’t exactly hampered his record against 10+ win teams. 

One aspect which the Eagles would like to improve on in tonight’s game will be the run game. Last week, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams combined for a measly 43 rushing yards. That is simply unacceptable, and if those results are replicated against the Saints, then they won’t stand much chance. 

Finally, the most impressive unit of the Eagles deserves a mention. That’s right, the O-Line. They allowed just 1 sack against the Bears, which is absolutely phenomenal considering the pass rush talent that Chicago possesses. More importantly, for the majority of the game they made Khalil Mack look almost obsolete, which is impressive to say the least. 

Defensive Resurgence Impending? 

The last time these two sides met was in week 10, when the Saints humbled the opposing defence. Not only did they score a whopping 48 points but the dominant offensive showing from the Saints had almost everyone laughing at a weak Eagles secondary. Who’d have thought by now that, that same defence would have made it to the Divisional Round, and in fine form no less. 

At the line of scrimmage, Fletcher Cox and Michael Bennett have rose to prominence as one of the most talented duos in the trenches. In addition, coverage in the backfield has vastly improved in the latter parts of the year too. Take Rasul Douglas for example, who has lead the team in tackles for four straight weeks. Moreover, a young corner by the name of Cre’Von LeBlanc has really stepped up after garnering a starting spot in the lineup. 

Spectacular Saints

Honestly, the New Orleans Saints are a joy to watch. Drew Brees is a first ballot Hall of Famer, that’s for certain, but more importantly he’s been playing at such a level all season. Through 15 games, Brees boasts a 74.4% completion percentage, throwing for 3992 yards and producing 32 touchdowns in the process. 

Joining him in exquisite performances has been Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. The duo combine for THE most explosive back pairings in all of football, and have been the toughest of tasks for all opponents so far this year once more. Ultimately, their pairing will be one of the most important factors in the matchup tonight, as they not only possess the ability to make plays on their own, but also provide an outlet for Brees in the pass game. As well as that, their production creates an opportunity for the Saints to be unpredictable in their play-calling which will no doubt keep the Eagles defence on their toes all game long. 

The largest piece on the Saints’ offence is Michael Thomas. The perennial Pro Bowler has been electric once again this year, accumulating 1405 yards and 9 touchdowns on a league-leading 125 receptions. He was simply unstoppable in week 10, but can he replicate that performance this time around? 

NOLA’s Dominant Defence 

Although the Saints are excellent on offence, they’re about as good on D too. First of all, the Saints have a +8 turnover differential and have produced 49 sacks this year. 

Spearheading this unit has been Cameron Jordan, who so far has produced 49 tackles and 12 sacks. Additionally, Alex Anzalone has improved emphatically this season. As of now, he has amassed 3 forced fumbles, 2 sacks and 59 tackles. At inside linebacker, Demario Davis has notched 2 forced fumbles, 5 sacks and an almighty 110 tackles. 

On top of that, quarterbacking the Saints’ secondary is Marshon Lattimore, whose performances have elevated him to being a top 5 corner in the NFL for some time now. 

The Verdict 

Last week I counted out the Philadelphia Eagles versus the Chicago Bears. It was a stupid decision in hindsight, but I’m edging it to the opposition this time too.

For me, the New Orleans Saints are simply too dominant in all three areas of the game. Their offensive unit is a plausible candidate for the best in the NFL, whilst their defence is there or there abouts. As well as that, both Will Lutz and Thomas Morstead are among the best in the league in their respective positions. Although counting out Nick Foles in the playoffs is almost forbidden, I simply can’t see him toppling such a fantastic football team. 

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