The Philadelphia Eagles fell short in Week 16 as Jalen Hurts sat out their game against the Dallas Cowboys. They enter this weekend with a big target on their backs but perhaps even a bigger question mark. Their three most potent offensive weapons are questionable for this game, and that might put them on the back foot. Still, the Eagles are at 13-2, sitting atop the entire NFC. They’re defensive line is healthy, and backup QB Gardner Minshew is capable. Philadelphia can officially clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs if they win this game. That should give them a ton of motivation. Now let’s look at our Eagles Week 17 predictions as they take on the Saints.
This game will be impacted by the fact that Minshew is once again expected to play at quarterback for the Eagles. This is because Jalen Hurts is expected to miss at least one more week with a shoulder injury. In fact, the Eagles released their first official injury report for this game. They listed four players as “did not participate:” Hurts, Lane Johnson, Avonte Maddox, and Miles Sanders. Philly also listed two players as “limited participation:” AJ Brown and Jordan Davis.
Wednesday injury report#NOvsPHI pic.twitter.com/QYJ95d7dfO
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) December 28, 2022
Meanwhile, the Saints are relatively healthier. They have also won their last two games and are still in contention for a playoff berth. New Orleans trails the NFC South-leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers by just one game. They will go all out to win this one.
Both teams are approaching this game with a focus on the present, and it may have a playoff atmosphere despite their different spots in the playoff race.
With all these in mind, here are our four bold predictions for the Eagles in their Week 17 game against the Saints.
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4. Eagles pass rush dominates
While the offense led by MVP candidate Jalen Hurts gets most of the attention in Philadelphia, the Eagles also have an elite defense. The Eagles have one of the best pass rushes and secondaries in the league, and teams have struggled against them when trying to throw the ball.
Haason Reddick, in particular, has been a standout player for the Eagles. He leads the team with 14 sacks, which is third-best in the NFL. Reddick has been so dominant as a pass rusher that he has the most sacks for any Philadelphia player since Connor Barwin had 14.5 in 2014. Reddick is also leading the NFL with five strip-sacks and is tied for first with five forced fumbles. This is Reddick’s career-high in sacks, but it is also the third consecutive season he has reached double digits. That makes him the first NFL player to do so with three different teams (Arizona, Carolina, and now the Eagles).
Alongside Reddick are Javon Hargrave (10 sacks), Josh Sweat (11 sacks), Brandon Graham (nine sacks), and Fletcher Cox (six sacks). All of those guys are going to try and wrap up Saints QB Andy Dalton in Week 17. Needless to say, Dalton won’t be sleeping much thinking about this pass rush.
3. Devonta Smith takes over
During last Saturday’s loss to the Cowboys, Eagles WR DeVonta Smith had eight receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns. In the past four games, in fact, he has exceeded 100 receiving yards three times. He has also recorded 23 receptions for 405 yards and four touchdowns on 36 targets. What makes this more impressive is that this strong performance coincides with Minshew filling in for Hurts. This also means Smith’s production should not suffer in Week 17 with Minshew still under center.
In addition to that, AJ Brown’s likely absence also means Smith will get even more targets. As such, do not be shocked if he takes over this game. His season-high for receiving yards so far has been 169 yards. He did that back in Week 3 against the Washington Commanders. Against the Saints here, Smith should put up at least 110 yards with one touchdown.
2. Gardner Minshew continues solid play
Gardner Minshew’s performance against the Cowboys was somewhat mixed. On one hand, he threw the ball 40 times, completing 24 passes for an impressive 355 yards and two touchdowns. On the other hand, he also had two interceptions and struggled with ball security. In fact, he fumbled the ball twice and lost one of them.
Overall, the Eagles turned the ball over four times in the game, which contributed to their loss. Minshew’s running ability was also less effective than usual. He carried the ball just four times for five yards and a touchdown.
Despite these challenges, it’s worth noting that Minshew played relatively well. Keep in mind that even his interceptions were the result of contested balls that could have been caught by Eagles receiver Quez Watkins.
In the upcoming matchup against the Saints, Minshew should continue his solid play. In order to be successful, he will need to be efficient with his opportunities and avoid turnovers. It’s also worth mentioning that in the past two weeks, the Eagles have had seven of their 17 turnovers, highlighting the importance of ball security for their success. We have him putting up 230+ total yards with two touchdowns and one INT.
1. Eagles struggle but survive
Last week, the Eagles lost in a high-scoring game while Hurts was out with a right shoulder injury. Hurts will not play again this week. That means this game will probably be closer than expected. Still, take note that the Saints have struggled offensively this season. They average only 20.2 points per game and record a league-worst 11 takeaways in 15 games.
This also means that Minshew will start anew. As we already mentioned, he’s a solid QB, if not spectacular. He should be good enough to lead Philly to a solid showing here, especially since DeVonta Smith will play. Of course, the Eagles pass rush will be tight, too.
However, it’s worth noting that the Saints will likely put up a fight given that their playoff hopes are slim. Ultimately, the Eagles may come out on top, but they will need to avoid making the same mistakes they made against the Cowboys. As long as Philly has two turnovers max, they should survive and clinch home-field advantage in the NFC Playoffs.