The Philadelphia Eagles are riding the magic of Super Bowl MVP, Nick Foles, once again. The Eagles face the NFL’s best team, the New Orleans Saints, on Sunday in a game where Philadelphia is seeking vengeance for their 48-7 lost on November 18th.
The Philadelphia Eagles are certainly not the team they were last season. With a thin and beat up secondary, the Eagles are relying on their young corners, Avonte Maddox and Rasul Douglas to attempt to stop the Saints lethal passing attack. The Eagles also have an almost irrelevant running game, averaging only 98 yards per game as a team compared to 132 last season.
The Eagles are not the favorites to win this NFC Divisional game by a longshot but they can pose an argument on how they can pull off the upset in the Superdome on Sunday. The Eagles have been in the same situation dating back to week 15 where they needed to win every game to have a chance to get into the playoffs. They have continued to find a way to win, no matter how ugly. Why not the Eagles again this week?
The Eagles have caught the hot hand at the right time, so here are three reasons why the Philadelphia Eagles will beat the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
No. 3: The Eagles front four
The Philadelphia Eagles’ front four is one of the best in the entire NFL. The Eagles front four is led by All-Pro defensive tackle, Fletcher Cox, along with Brandon Graham, Michael Bennett, Tim Jernigan, and their rotation guy, Chris Long. This core has wreaked havoc upon opposing offenses this entire season and their performance Sunday could be one of the main ingredients to a divisional round upset.
In week 13, the Dallas Cowboys stunned the entire NFL world by defeating the New Orleans Saints 13-10. A huge factor in the Cowboys win was pressure from their front four on Drew Brees and the Saints running backs. Brees’ pocket collapsed and he did not have time to throw the ball and his running backs could not get anything going. The Eagles can take some things from their division rival in the divisional round this week.
Drew Brees is 39 years old (turns 40 on Tuesday) and his inability to escape pressure and make plays with his feet have been an obvious sign of him aging. Despite those inefficiencies, Drew Brees still put up an MVP season and broke the NFL completion percentage record at 74.4 percent. The one way to get past Brees is to bring pressure and force Brees to get the ball out quicker and collapse the pocket, just like the Cowboys did in week 13. Getting a few hits on Brees early could fluster him and make him a less effective in the game.
Eagles defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz, uses his front four to put pressure on the quarterback and rarely sends blitzes. Part of it is due to the Eagles weak secondary but another reason is due to the sheer amount of pressure those four guys can bring without blitzing.
The Eagles front four was a big reason why the teams’ defense ranked 7th in rushing defense. Fletcher Cox is the king of run stopping and finds success even when double-teamed. Timmy Jernigan is finally 100 percent healthy so the Eagles core-four can be in full effect again Sunday. If the Eagles can limit the two-headed monster of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, it will away a huge facet of the Saints offense, decreasing play-action and RPO’s, and not letting the Saints pour on points.
The Eagles only sending four also helps out the biggest weakness on defense, the cornerbacks. The front four taking on pass rushing duties solo allows for the weak corners to get help from the linebackers and safeties. If the Saints pass protection fails to hold up, Saints receivers (Michael Thomas) can’t perform their double moves, which the Eagles back-up corners struggle to defend.
The Eagles have limited high-powered passing offenses like the Rams and the Texans this season by being able to run a deep cover 3 defense to limit big plays and provide the corners with more help. That only can occur if the front four can get ample pressure on the quarterback.
The Eagles front four can be a gamechanger this week as they have been all year. Expect Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham to have big games putting pressure on the Saints offensive line and Drew Brees.
They say a defensive line is the cornerstone of every great team and the Eagles’ front four can help the defending Super Bowl Champs pull off another upset.
No. 2: The Eagles offensive line > Saints defensive line
The Philadelphia Eagles have one of the best offensive lines in the entire NFL. Pro Football Focus ranked the Eagles offensive line 5th for the 2018-19 season. Against the Saints on Sunday, the Eagles O-line will be another reason why they can pull out a win. The offensive line has to set the tone early so the Eagles offense can get off to a hot start.
The Eagles offensive line consists of four former first-team All-Pro’s with Jason Peters, Brandon Brooks, Jason Kelce, and Lane Johnson. Don’t forget about Issac Seumalo, who has only allowed two sacks this season and has the fewest amount of penalties (1) on the offensive line this year.
The Eagles offensive line has faced tough matchups in their previous five games. They played the Cowboys, Rams, Texans, and Bears who all have highly talented defensive lines. DeMarcus Lawrence, Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Akiem Hicks, and Khalil Mack are all Pro-Bowl and All-Pro caliber players and against the Eagles, they have all combined for one sack in those games.
That says an awful lot about the Eagles offensive line, especially with Nick Foles in who is not the most mobile quarterback there is. Being able to take the opponents best front guys completely out of games is why the Eagles offense has been flying high.
The Saints have a top-tier defensive line, led by All-Pro, Cameron Jordan. In 2018 Jordan racked up 12 sacks, 18 TFL, and 15 QB hits. The two other key guys on the Saints front four are Sheldon Rankins and Marcus Davenport. This front four is no joke but it is not the best the Eagles have seen.
Lane Johnson will battle Cam Jordan Sunday. This is no surprise to Johnson who has been the primary blocker on DeMarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney, and Khalil Mack, allowing only one sack. Johnson is used to taking teams best player and if he gets in, All-Pro Brandon Brooks is next to him to help on the right side. Lane Johnson will win this battle and the rest of the O-line will be able to handle the rest.
Games are won in the trenches and the Eagles offensive line has the edge against the Saints front and will protect Nick Foles to let the Eagles’ offense score. Having four All-Pro’s on the line is what every QB dreams of and this definitely gives the Philly the talent advantage over the Saints. The Eagles superb pass protection combined with Nick Foles’ ability to get rid of the ball quickly is a recipe for success. The Eagles protected Foles well in Chicago last week, and this week, which won’t be a defensive game, will allow Philly to move the ball better and score more points, resulting in an Eagles upset win.
No. 1: Nick Foles
You could have guessed this one. Nick Foles. There is just something magical about Nick Foles that no one but God himself can explain. His teammates, coaches, and Eagles fans all rally around him in a way that has never been seen before. Saint Nick does not always put up the sexiest numbers but he always finds a way to win the big games.
Last year just about everyone ruled out the Eagles after Carson Wentz tore his ACL. They thought the Eagles wouldn’t beat the Atlanta Falcons. They did. They thought the Eagles wouldn’t beat the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game. They did. Exhibiting pure domination, winning 38-7. They thought the Eagles wouldn’t beat Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the unstoppable New England Patriots. They did.
So how can you count Nick Foles and the Eagles out now?
The Eagles are firing on all cylinders. Their defense is playing at a league-best level as they were last year. Nick Foles and this offense keeps scoring, no matter the opponent. The underdog mentality is in full swing and that’s what Foles, the Eagles, and Philly fans love. Count us out and we’ll make you be sorry you did.
Every time Nick Foles steps on the field could be his last in a Philadelphia Eagles jersey; a team, city, and fanbase that he so dearly loves and plays his heart out for each and every week. The entire country loves Foles-mania. The energy, drive, and motivation that just the presence of Nick Foles provides to his teammates is something that can’t be measured by stats or any metric.
Super Bowl MVP, Nick Foles, thrives in games where he is counted out the most. The Eagles weren’t favored in any game en route to their Super Bowl LII title. For example, in the NFC Championship against arguably the leagues best defense in Minnesota, Foles racked up 352 yards, 3 TD’s, posting a 94 QBR and a 141 RTG. In the Super Bowl, Foles passed for 373 yards, 3 passing TD’s, and the famous Philly Special receiving touchdown.
Foles has been on fire in games in December and January. He is 10-1 in his last 11 games in December/January and the one loss was week 17 of last season where Foles played less than a half where the Eagles ended up losing while benching most of their starters.
Nick Foles will fair well against the Saints defense because he faces pass rushes better than anyone in football. According to Pro Football Focus, Foles has a passer rating of 90.6 on plays when he is pressured this season which ranked him 1st among the 38 other quarterbacks who qualified.
When the Eagles faced the Saints in November, Carson Wentz was sacked three times and threw three interceptions. Foles is better at avoiding the rush than Wentz. Foles’ ability to get rid of the ball quickly and throwing as well as he does off his back foot, will serve well against this talented Saints defense.
Drew Brees and Nick Foles both attended Westlake high school and both have tremendous respect for each other. Brees has stated how impressed he is with how well Foles throws under pressure and performs in the biggest games in the biggest moments.
The Saints defense ranks 29th in passing defense. This should be music to the ears of Nick Foles where he can have another big playoff game through the air. The Eagles offensive line has the edge against the New Orleans defensive line so, Nick Foles will have the time he needs to go through his progression and make precise passes and tear up the 3rd worst passing defense in the NFL. Expect Nick Foles to have at least 300 yards passing and three touchdowns.
In a game where ESPN gives the Saints an 80.9 percent chance of victory and gives New Orleans the largest spread (NO -8), Nick Foles and the Eagles yet again are the underdogs and they want nothing more than a win. Nick Foles is the x-factor and the force that is driving the underdog, Philadelphia Eagles, to what can be another upset win at the Super Dome against the Saints. Get ready to put on those masks.
(All stats via Pro-Football-Reference)