Eagles vs Saints : If Foles is going to do it again it may be his most impressive feat yet. Oddsmakers have made the Eagles 8-point road dogs for this matchup. That’s the most points they have gotten in the playoffs over their last two playoff runs. These teams met back in Week 11 on this same field, with the Saints embarrassing the Eagles 48-7 as 7-point faves. But Nick Foles didn’t start and it wasn’t December/January. We break down the best ways to wager this NFC Divisional Round showdown.
The Saints are a great quick strike offense in the comforts of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, ranking fourth in first quarter scoring at home this season at 7.1 points per game. That is thanks to a very balanced offense led by veteran quarterback Drew Brees. The Saints rank eighth in total yards, 12th in passing yards, sixth in rushing yards and third in points per game.
The Eagles offense, while more efficient with Foles under center, are still a bit more methodical when it comes to starting games to put it nicely. Philadelphia ranks dead last in the NFL in first quarter scoring this season at just 2.6 per contest. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see the first quarter come to a close with the Saints having at least a small lead.
The Saints come into this matchup well rested and in the comforts of home, where they averaged 18.2 first half points per game this season. Good for fourth best in the NFL. That rest will really help out a Saints offensive line that was a little banged up at the end of the year, not to mention running back Alvin Kamara.
The Saints running back had a terrific season, racking up nearly 1,600 total yards with 18 scores. Kamara and backfield mate Mark Ingram are the key to what makes this offense so dangerous. But they are going up an Eagles defense that ranks sixth against the rush and over the last four weeks haven’t allowed a running back to go over 50 yards. And since the beatdown the Saints handed them, the Eagles have allowed just 18.9 points per game.
Expect New Orleans to rely on some rested bodies and that famous “Who Dat Nation” to get out to an early lead. But Philly’s revitalized defense keeps it close.
One player who seems to benefit greatly with Foles under center is wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. The veteran wideout was for the most part a disappointment to Philly fans and fantasy owners alike when Carson Wentz was his quarterback. But things are different with Foles. Over the past two seasons in games which Foles starts and Jeffery plays the full contest (eight games including playoffs), Foles targets the wide out nearly seven times per game. Jeffery has converted those targets into 38 catches for 651. Expect that trend to continue going up a Saints pass defense that ranks 29th against the pass in terms of yards per game, 28th in opponent’s yards per game and 26th in opponent’s completion percentage.
The Eagles have some real strengths on defense, but Sean Payton and Brees are some of the best in the business at exploiting weaknesses. The Saints will use the run in order to set up some big plays down field later on and Brees, who broke the NFL record for completion percentage in a season, will attack an underwhelming Eagles secondary that ranked 30th in passing yards allowed this season.
That said, the Eagles should also have success on offense in this one. Foles has put up some massive numbers in previous playoff games (last week not withstanding) and he gets to face a Saints pass defense that ranks 29th in passing yards allowed, 28th in yards per attempt and 27th in opponent’s completion percentage. Philly is also one of the league’s better second-half teams, ranking fifth at 13.6 points per contest. The number is just a little too low here.
This is a very difficult game to choose a side. Do you fade the Saints at home in the playoffs? Or do you fade the Foles playoff magic? Not an easy call. So, while the story in this one will likely come down to the men under center, we turn to the defense to help us make this decision.
One thing that is a must in playoff football is strong defensive line play. And the Eagles d-line is starting to look like the one they rode to a Super Bowl title once again. They are active, they get penetration and they have depth. On top of that, the Eagles defense, while it has holes, ranks very high in some clutch categories. They rank first in the league in opponent’s red zone touchdown percentage and fifth in opponent’s 3rd down conversion rate. If they can get a few key stops, they can at least keep this close.
The Eagles’ run likely ends on Sunday, but this number is too big, and we won’t be caught fading the Foles magic if it somehow continues.