Wild Card Weekend: New Orleans Saints At Philadelphia Eagles
- QuarterbackThe Saints had to be quite disappointed that the Cowboys were not able to come up with the victory in the winner-take-all game with the Eagles in Week 17. If Dallas had won, it would have been a comfortable environment for Drew Brees to throw the ball. With the Eagles winning, Brees is going to have to come through in a winter environment, and that’s not his greatest strength.The Eagles became a formidable team when Nick Foles took over at quarterback. He made headlines with his seven-TD performance vs. Oakland in Week Nine, and he proved to be a quality passer in the big games that followed. Foles had a shockingly high 119.2 passer rating along with a 27-2 TD-interception ratio. He must continue to perform at that level in the postseason.
- OffenseThe Saints can pile up the points when they get on a roll, but that happens with much greater frequency when they are playing in the Superdome than when they are competing on the road. Pierre Thomas does not give the Saints much on the ground. Tight end Jimmy Graham is capable of carrying the Saints, while Marques Colston can make the tough catch in traffic.The Eagles have a variety of offensive options, and the best of the bunch is running back LeSean McCoy. He led the NFL in rushing with 1,607 yards, and he had a 5.1 yards per carry average and nine touchdowns. He’s also an excellent receiver. DeSean Jackson has gamebreaking speed, while tight end Brent Celek can make third-down catches. Riley Cooper had 47 catches, including eight for touchdowns.
- DefenseThe Saints were one of the most dependable and consistent defensive teams in the league this season, and much of the credit must go to defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. The Saints ranked fourth on defense – second against the pass – after finishing dead-last a year ago. Defensive end Cameron Jordan had a team-high 12.5 sacks, while middle linebacker Curtis Lofton had 125 tackles.The Eagles did not compare statistically with the Saints as they finished 28th in yards allowed, but the Eagles improved in this area during the season. Start with cornerback Brandon Boykin, who had a team-high six interceptions. His pick late in the fourth quarter against the Cowboys in Week 17 clinched the victory for the Eagles. MLB DeMeco Ryans had a team-high 127 tackles.
- Special TeamsThe Saints did a decent job with their special-teams coverage, as they did not allow a punt or kickoff return longer than 46 yards. However, Darren Sproles was expected to give them big plays as a returner, but he did not. The Saints are going with PK Shayne Graham after parting company with Garrett Hartley.The Eagles were woeful with their special-teams coverage as they allowed two kickoffs and one punt return for touchdowns this season. Jackson had a poor year returning punts, but he could be an asset in the postseason. Alex Henery made 23-of-28 FG attempts and is not special.
The Eagles are built to play in bad weather and can deal with winter conditions. The Saints have great offensive talent, but they are best-suited to playing in a controlled environment. Still, the New Orleans defense can shift the game in its favor by creating one or two turnovers early that could get Foles off of his game. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor