- Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) at New Orleans Saints (2-5)
- Mercedes-Benz SuperDome
- New Orleans, Louisiana
- 8:30 PM Eastern
What Happened Last Week?
The Eagles suffered a humiliating 30-17 home defeat at the hands of the undefeated Atlanta Falcons. In Todd Bowles’s first game as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, the Falcons were able to score on each of their first 6 drives. The rout was punctuated by Falcons WR Julio Jones beating high-priced CB Nnamdi Asomugha badly on a go-route down the sideline for a 63-yard touchdown. The fans serenaded the team with boos and chants of “Fire Andy!” during the game, but Reid announced that Michael Vick will remain the starting QB for tonight.
Meanwhile, the Saints didn’t fare any better in Denver. Peyton Manning eviscerated the Saints’ much-maligned defense this season to the tune of 305 passing yards, 3 TDs, and a 138.9 passer rating as the Broncos won by a score of 34-14. Drew Brees had his worst game of the season, completing just 52% of his 42 passes for 213 yards, 2 TDs, and an INT. Those numbers were padded by a late TD pass to TE Jimmy Graham when the score was already 34-7.
What To Watch For:
- When The Eagles Have The Ball:
It seems like I say this every week, but look for the Eagles to run the ball a little more against the Saints’ 32nd-ranked run defense tonight. The offensive line has struggled to protect Michael Vick in the passing game, and the offense has undergone dramatic changes as a result. Last week, the offense didn’t attempt a pass longer than 15 yards down the field. It’s become a dink-and-dunk attack, but that should be remedied against the Saints’ porous defense. In addition to ranking last against the run, they rank 31st against the pass. If Vick and the Eagles offense don’t have a season-best day today (amazingly, the most points they’ve scored all season is 24 in Week 2 against the Ravens), look for changes to be made before next week’s Cowboys game, starting with Michael Vick. The Saints defense hasn’t held an opponent to less than 27 points all season, so look for the Eagles offense to have a big game.
Key Matchup: Michael Vick vs. Saints safeties. Vick and the Eagles will likely be looking to air the ball out tonight, so Saints safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper will need to take away the deep balls to Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. If they succeed, we could see more of the same sluggish offense from last week.
- When The Saints Have The Ball
With running back and pass catcher extraordinaire Darren Sproles out for the Saints tonight, look for their already-32nd ranked running game to struggle. That should (theoretically) play right into the Eagles’ hands since the defense’s strengths are supposed to be pass rushing and cornerback play. However, the pass rush has been anemic this season and while DRC has been excellent, Nnamdi has been underwhelming. Brees makes quick decisions and gets the ball out of his hands extremely fast. The Eagles secondary will need to be on top of their game tonight to try to keep him at bay and the defensive line needs to step up and start getting some pressure on Brees.
Tie: Demeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks vs. Jimmy Graham and Nnamdi Asomugha vs. Marques Colston
Graham is an all-world tight end, second only to New England’s Rob Gronkowski. He’s a matchup nightmare for any defense, and as Brees’s favorite target the combination of Kendricks and Ryans need to try to contain him. Kendricks will be able to run with Graham better than Ryans but gives up much more in terms of size, while Ryans is slower but is a surer tackler. They’ll probably give each of the two linebackers an opportunity to cover Graham. If they can neutralize Graham or limit his effectiveness, a Saints offense already missing Darren Sproles will suffer even more.
Nnamdi had some high-profile struggles against Julio Jones last week, but I think he’ll rebound this week against Marques Colston. Jones is a big receiver, but he’s also a burner (ran a 4.39 40 ). Nnamdi can jam well at the line, but his recovery speed has abandoned him since coming to Philadelphia. Colston is a big receiver at 6’5, 225, but isn’t as fast as Jones. Nnamdi should be able to use his physicality more this week and limit Colston’s effectiveness, the operative word here being should.
Saints 35, Eagles 31. I think the offense puts up points tonight but the defense struggles mightily against Brees. A QB of his caliber picks apart defenses if he is given time to think and throw, and I predict the Eagles’ offensive line fails to put pressure on the QB once again. Vick buys himself another week as the starter with a solid performance, but Andy Reid takes another step towards losing his job after the season. Fun times in Philadelphia.