Drew Brees figures to be a key player in the Eagles Wildcard game against the New Orleans Saints. (Photo Courtesy of ESPN.com)
The playoffs have arrived and the stakes are greater than ever for the Philadelphia Eagles. Just like last week, it’s win or go home for the Eagles.
Standing in their way is the New Orleans Saints, an unfamiliar opponent to Chip Kelly and the Eagles. The Saints posted an 11-5 in the regular season and bring a talented team in Lincoln Financial Field.
With that, it is time to break down six keys to the game in this special Wildcard round edition of the Saturday Six Pack.
Chilly in Philly – The Eagles survived the Snow Bowl. The Saints play in a dome. This is a mismatch by turns of home-field climate. And the numbers reflect that. The Saints were unbeatable this season in the Superdome. They were just 3-5 on the road. For a team that is not accustomed to the cold weather, the Eagles may be able to take advantage of the Saints as they adjust to the temperatures.
Drew Brees vs. Eagles Defense – The loss of running back Pierre Thomas is not what it seems. It does take away a big part of the Saints offense. However, the player to watch is Drew Brees. Serving as one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL for years, Brees may be the best passer for accuracy in the league. And he has plenty of receiving threats to go to, as you’ll read later. Brees is a player who can change a game. And his passing ability is greater than anything the Eagles have faced this season. He could make mistakes, but the Eagles defense can’t bank on that like they have with other quarterbacks.
Saints Rush Offense vs. Eagles Rush Defense – Speaking of the loss of Thomas, the Saints know how to fill the void in the running game. The pairing of Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles can certainly take their toll on the Eagles defense. Ingram can be compared to what the Eagles faced in DeMarco Murray, a power back that will try to truck through the line. Sproles serves as both return specialist and running back for the Saints and is a huge speed threat. The Saints constant threat of using one or the other will keep the Eagles run defense on its toes.
Eagles Offensive Line – Simply put, the Eagles offensive line played a bad game against the Cowboys. And it was still enough for a win. The line has done such a good job is giving Nick Foles protection and opening up spots to allow LeSean McCoy running room. They hurt the offense’s ability last week, especially in the second half. They will need to be at their best against the Saints, who will be looking to attack the Eagles backfield.
LeSean McCoy vs. Saints Defense – Once again, the Eagles all-pro running back and the NFL’s leading rush will be the driving voice of the offense. Getting McCoy involved early and often will only help the Eagles. As shown against the Cowboys, McCoy can be slowed but not completely stopped. Consistency in play-calling and sticking to the run will be important for the Eagles, and if McCoy plays to his capabilities, it could be a good night for the Eagles offense.
Saints Receivers vs. Eagles Secondary – The Eagles secondary will be one of the key aspects to the Saints passing game. New Orleans is constructed similarly to the Eagles in the sense that Marques Colston is the go-to guy the way DeSean Jackson is for Philadelphia. But if Brees isn’t able to use Colston, Kenny Stills or even Lance Moore, Jimmy Graham will be the primary target. His size alone makes him a huge threat to the Eagles defense and could make stopping the Saints offense a nightmare for the Eagles.