NFC Playoff Preview: Divisional Weekend

Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) at New Orleans Saints (13-3)

Sunday, January 13th, 4:40 pm EST.

Bring back the dog masks.

I’m not saying that it will do any good whatsoever. But bring them back, nonetheless. They were a fun addition to the playoff vibe last year. The Eagles and their backup QB are back, why not the creepiest Halloween costume in NFL history?

In the end, the Eagles are nothing if not a massive underdog again.

The defending champs? Why? You may ask.

I’ll tell you.

48-7.

If you’re not up on your recent history, that was the week eleven score of the Eagles-Saints game.

Apologies to my friends in Philly. The Eagles did not win.

Carson Wentz threw for 156 yards with three interceptions and no touchdowns. That’s Nathan Peterman numbers, people.

Drew Brees threw for 363 yards with four TDs. That’s MVP numbers.

Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara ran over the Eagles defense to the tune of 174 yards on the ground.

Philadelphia only managed 196 yards of offense. Total.

New Orleans AVERAGED just under eight yards per play. Think about that for a second. They needed only 1.25 plays per first down. That’s absurd. Given that average, I’m not sure how the Eagles managed to force two punts.

The game wasn’t close. It was a flat-out domination. And it wasn’t an early-season aberration. It was week eleven.

The Eagles didn’t coalesce after that either, reeling off wins in an inevitable march to the playoffs. They’ve suffered fits and starts all season long. This season’s Eagles are only the eighteenth-best scoring offense in the league. They’re not in the top ten defensively, either. A whopping 44% of the Eagles wins this year came at the expense of the inexplicably moribund Giants and the later-season Alex Smith-less Eagles (also moribund after his season-ending injury). Their best string of games was the final three weeks of the season, so they do have that going for them.

Why the final three games?

Nick Foles. He took over in week fifteen again after starting the first two weeks before Wentz returned. His record in those five regular season starts? 4-1. The lone loss was on the road against the white-hot Buccaneers in week two. Carson Wentz was 5-6 as a starter this season.
Just saying.

I’ve mentioned before that despite Carson Wentz having greater upside potential, this unit is better with Nick Foles under center. It’s hard to ignore that now.

Maybe it’s that he’s the better of the F-Magic Backups? Foles-Magic is better than Fitz-Magic. (Though I can easily make the argument that both Foles and Fitzgerald should be the starters of their teams.)

Maybe it’s the shine of the Super Bowl win and the lift that it brings to this team?

Maybe it’s a subtle difference in read progression that’s harder for defenses to interpret?

Maybe the defense overperforms to protect their backup?

Your guess is as good as mine. No theory is bad. But it ends this Sunday in New Orleans.

Prediction: With Foles under center, the Eagles offense looks haphazard, and maybe it works
for some reason… but whatever it is, it won’t be enough to close the gap with the Saints on the
road, coming off a bye (and a rest game in week 17).

Saints 33
Eagles 14

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out Tom’s other playoff previews here

Image Source: Yahoo! Sports

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