The defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles are still alive as they visit the New Orleans Saints in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:40 EST on Sunday, January 13, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The game will be broadcast nationally on Fox.
The Saints are currently listed as 8-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 50.5 points. Click here to check out this week’s NFL playoff betting odds.
It’s been a wild ride for the Eagles the second half of the season. Philadelphia won five of their last six games just to get into the playoffs. They also had to endure the loss of Carson Wentz, forcing Nick Foles to once again step up and lead the Eagles into the playoffs. Last week, Foles executed a 4th quarter touchdown drive to give the Eagles a lead over the Bears. That lead barely held up after the Eagles blocked a field goal in the closing seconds to secure passage to the Divisional Round.
New Orleans, meanwhile, cruised to the top seed in the NFC. Despite losing Week 17 while resting several starters, including Drew Brees, the Saints still finished the 2018 season with a 13-3 record. Between Week 2 and Week 16, they lost just one game. Of course, it’s now on Sean Payton and company to be at their best during the playoffs. Payton hasn’t taken the Saints beyond the Divisional Round since the Saints won the Super Bowl after the 2009 season.
Of course, these two teams met in New Orleans back in Week 11 with the Saints dominating 48-7. However, it was immediately after that game that the Eagles started their late season push. They’ve won six of their seven games since that loss. Head coach Doug Pederson insists the Eagles are a different team from the one that got blown out in that game. We’ll find out if that’s true on Sunday.
Once again, Foles and the Eagles have made for a great story. However, they were a little fortunate to survive that last-second field goal against the Bears last week, and I think their luck is about to run out. The Saints have been on a different level all season. Being well-rested and playing at home, I like New Orleans to reassert their dominance and beat the Eagles by double digits, covering the 8-point spread.
While Foles has made plenty of game-winning throws, he’s not exactly dominating games. His 471-yard passing performance against the Texans stands out, but his other performances have all been more modest. Against the Saints, he’ll have to be at the top of his game from start to finish if he wants to keep up with Brees.
The fact that Foles has thrown five interceptions over his last four games is a huge concern. Philadelphia got away with that in a low-scoring game against the Bears. However, more of their drives against the Saints will need to end with points being scored, so any mistakes will be amplified. Despite his brilliance late in the year, Foles hasn’t proven that he can play turnover-free football.
Remember, the Eagles have a lackluster running game that has continued to struggle late in the season against quality teams. That isn’t likely to change against a New Orleans defense that gave up 3.6 yards per carry this season. That will put it all on Foles, who will need to be close to perfect against a tough defense to keep the Eagles in the game.
On the other side of the ball, it’ll be up to the Philadelphia defense to play much better than they did when the Saints scored 48 points against them in Week 11. The New Orleans offense was able to score at will in that game. Brees threw four touchdown passes with rookie Tre’Quan Smith having the best game of his young career. The combination of Smith and Michael Thomas proved too much for an outmatched Philadelphia secondary.
Meanwhile, the tandem of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara rushed for over 170 yards in that game. If the Eagles want to give their secondary a little extra help, they run the risk of getting gashed on the ground again by Ingram and Kamara. To be fair, the Saints have been a little up and down offensively since that game. However, they’re capable of performing like that on any given day, especially at home.
To be fair, the Philadelphia defense has stepped up late in the year. Last week, they were able to hold the Bears to just 15 points, setting up Foles for the game-winning drive. However, the Eagles have still struggled against some of the more potent offensive teams they’ve faced late in the year. Even in wins, they gave up 23 points to the Rams and 30 points to the Texans late in the season. That doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in the Philadelphia defense keeping the Saints in check, especially after they were torched by the New Orleans offense less than two months ago.
Obviously, another 41-point win by New Orleans is unlikely. However, the Saints are 5-0 in home playoff games under Payton. They have also scored 40 or more points six times this season, so they’re capable of another offensive explosion. In the end, I don’t think Foles is fit to keep up with Brees in a shootout. Eventually, New Orleans will get the separation they need to win by a comfortable margin and cover the spread.