Philadelphia Eagles vs. New Orleans Saints
The #1 seeded New Orleans Saints host the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon to close out the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. These two teams met in Week 11 where the Saints handed the Eagles a 48-7 beat down, good for the third largest victory in Saints history and fourth worst defeat ever for the Eagles. The Eagles have Nick Foles at quarterback in this one, other than that the rosters are the same, but there is little doubt that the Eagles are playing much better football, especially defensively, than they were during their previous trip to New Orleans. The Saints are -8 point favorites as they welcome the Eagles to the Superdome.
Eagles Underdog Remaining
The Philadelphia Eagles are playing with house money after upsetting the Chicago Bears in the wildcard round thanks to the kick heard round the world that clanked off the upright and crossbar. The Eagles will once again play the role of the underdog with Nick Foles behind center, despite Foles having the best quarterback rating in NFL postseason history. The Eagles have been heavily reliant on Foles as of late as their rushing attack has been almost non-existent. The combination of Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood only managed a meager 42 yards against Chicago and things are not going to get any easier against the Saints, who finished just behind the Bears for the best rushing defense in the NFL this season. The Eagles path to victory is quite simple and it all rests on their defense. Philadelphia needs an ugly game, much like what they got in Chicago, to have a chance to move on to a second straight NFC Championship game.
Saints Top Seed in NFC
The New Orleans Saints coasted through the regular season with a massive +151 point differential behind the high powered offense and stout run defense. Drew Brees was aiming at the MVP award, but fell off a little bit towards the end but should now be reenergized to make another run at a Super Bowl. Brees is 5-0 all-time in playoff games at the Superdome and the venue is one of the most daunting places to travel to get a win, especially in the playoffs. The Saints offensive game plan is quite simple: spread the defense out, get it to your play makers in space, and dare the opponent to try and match your speed and quickness. Defensively, the Saints overcame a slow start to the year to end up having a pretty good year. The Saints run defense is second in the league (much of this attributable to opponents abandoning the run after the Saints get an early lead), but it will be their pass coverage in the cross hairs on Sunday.
Pick and Prediction
The New Orleans Saints are the better team. That could be said to be the case against any NFC opponent that they square up against. However, you have to believe that something is going on with Nick Foles and the playoffs. Foles will be asked to do a lot in this one to keep pace with the Saints, but the magic ends here. Do not expect a lopsided score like you saw in Week 11, but the Saints should still manage an easy victory. I am taking the Saints to win and cover, 27-17.