Saturday night will pit two of the NFC’s most prolific offenses against each other when Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints travel to Philadelphia to meet Nick Foles and the Eagles. Let’s take a look at all of the positions on the field, and who should have the edge come game time.
Nick Foles was one of the biggest surprises this season, going 8-2 in his ten starts as the Eagles quarterback. He threw for 2,891 yards and 27 touchdowns with only two interceptions. Foles has looked confident taking command of Philadelphia’s high paced, run and gun offense, and has the Eagles scoring almost at will. However, this is Foles’ first playoff game, and the man that he is up against has already won a Super Bowl. Drew Brees had another amazing year, and if not for Peyton Manning, would be my choice for league MVP this year. Brees has thrown for 5,162 yards and 39 touchdowns, with only 12 interceptions. Both are talented quarterbacks armed with a bevy of targets that can make plays for them, but at the end of the day, I think experience prevails in this one.
EDGE: New Orleans
LeSean McCoy ran (sorry for the pun!) his way to the rushing title this year, running for 1,607 yards on 314 carries with nine touchdowns. McCoy is arguably the most explosive back in the league, and has amazing big play ability. Bryce Brown has also provided some key plays this season, running the ball 75 times for 314 yards and two touchdowns. The Saints have arguably the best running back depth in the league, with three backs that contribute greatly to the offense this season. However, all three have different roles in the offense. Mark Ingram is used strictly as a running back, carrying the ball 78 times this season for 348 yards and one touchdown. Pierre Thomas will start and get most of the snaps, as he is the best all-around back that the Saints have. Thomas had 1,062 yards of total offense this year, along with five total touchdowns. Darren Sproles is primarily used as a 3rd down back, and he does most of his damage in the passing game. While the Saints have depth at running back, I would take McCoy over any of them to be the most productive and have the biggest impact on the game.
DeSean Jackson led the Eagles in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns this year, and has even more value in the return game. Riley Cooper had a respectable season, catching 47 passes on 87 targets for 835 yards and eight touchdowns. Jason Avant will provide sure hands on 3rd down and short yardage situations. The Saints receiving corps is lead by Marques Colston who caught 75 passes for 943 yards and five touchdowns this season. Kenny Stills and Lance Moore will provide big play ability, and Nick Toon could also see a deep ball or two thrown his way. Both teams have great options at wide receiver, but I think that Philadelphia has a better set of all-around receivers, as opposed to the Saints, who have a bunch of big play threats.
The Eagles have two very well rounded tight ends that put up almost identical numbers this season. Veteran Brent Celek had 32 receptions on 50 targets for 502 yards and six touchdowns this year, while rookie Zach Ertz caught 36 balls on 56 targets for 469 yards and four touchdowns. While both Ertz and Celek are good, they bare no comparison to Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. Graham led all NFL tight ends in targets (144), receptions (86), yards (1,216), and touchdowns (16; league high). Graham can line up anywhere on the field and be a threat to score, which provides a whole other element to the Saints offense.
EDGE: New Orleans
Both teams have had respectable seasons on the defensive side of the ball. The Saints were one of the worst defenses in the league last season, but under new coordinator Rob Ryan has emerged as a top ten defense this year. The Saints only allowed five touchdowns for 20 yards or more this season. The Eagles have been very inconsistent on defense, but show a lot of promise and hustle. DeMeco Ryans led the team with 102 tackles this year, and Brandon Boykin had a team high six interceptions. The Eagles thrive on big plays, so I believe that the Saints will recognize and shut that idea down.
EDGE: New Orleans
The Saints have had trouble with their kicker this season, releasing Garrett Hartley and bringing in Shayne Graham after Hartley missed two fields goals in a loss at St. Louis. Hartley had missed six prior to the misses in St. Louis. Graham is perfect with his two field goal attempts since joining the Saints in Week 16 against Carolina, although his long was only 40 yards. Thomas Morestead is one of the NFL’s best punters/kickoff specialists, rarely allowing opponents to achieve decent starting position. Alex Henery will handle kicking duties for the Eagles going 23 for 28 in field goal attempts with a long of 51 yards. Donnie Jones allowed an average of eight return yards on punts this season for the Eagles. I really can’t see a clear cut advantage here, as the kicking game will most likely be affected by whatever the weather decides to do on Saturday night.
TOTAL: New Orleans wins 3-2-1
My Prediction: Saints win, 34-28.
I think that this game could be one of the better ones of the entire playoffs. You have Chip Kelly’s high paced offense going up against Drew Brees and a very pass happy offense. There should be a ton of points scored, and should be a load of fun to watch. At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to two things: which defense can buckle down and actually stop one of these highflying offenses and experience. I think that the Saints have the edge in both of these categories, and that should be the difference in this game.
Article by Jon Sousa
Categories: Fantasy Football