Some history between these two franchises:
The 4-6 Philadelphia Eagles have faced the 5-4 New Orleans Saints 33 times prior to this. The all-time record is 18-15 in favor of the Eagles. Philadelphia won the last meeting in December 2020, 24-21.
What to know about the Saints?:
This Saints team is definitely not the same team of yester-years. They are banged up. Aren't as efficiently scoring as past years, 21st in percentage of drives ending in a score and averaging the 14th most points per drive. And most importantly have a crisis at the most important position in football.
Winston was playing well enough, paired with a top 10 defense, to get the Saints wins. Since he went down, Siemian has struggled to keep the ship afloat. Plus being down Kamara last week and potentially this week has added more strain. The aerial attack is ineffective and just not scaring any defense. This is making the rushing attack ineffective, 22nd in yards per attempt.
Jonathan Gannon needs to dial up some different looks and pressure. Siemian will take what is given to him or drawing up for him, but really doesn't progress much further than a couple reads. He's a perennial backup what do you expect?
The offensive line of the Saints is middle of the pack overall in efficiency, but doesn't give up a ton of pressure. Which means more then the front four maybe needed to disrupt Siemian. However, with New Orleans missing both of their starting tackles, we could see that change.
Defensively the Saints are much better than their offensive counterparts. The Eagles rank 6th in red zone touchdown percentage at 68.6%. The Saints don't seem to mind having their backs against the end zone as they rank third in red zone touchdown rate allowed at 46%.
While they are similar to the Eagles in pressures and hurries, ranking in the bottom third of the league, they do rank 2nd in quarterback knockdowns. With Marcus Davenport and Cam Jordan anchoring this defensive line, the high amount of knockdowns means it's a little close for comfort to creating pressures and sacks. Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson will need to be on top of their game protecting Hurts and giving him that clean pocket that has helped him be so effective the last couple games passing.
Through the air the Saints defense hasn't been great. They are allowing the 7th most passing yards. There are definitely a number of names to watch including former Eagle Malcolm Jenkins, corner Marshon Lattimore and linebacker Demario Davis. They do rank top 10 in time, plays, points and yards allowed per drive. It's a defense that buttons down when there is a short field to defend.
What to know about the Eagles?:
It will be a battle of Goliath vs. Goliath when the #1 rushing offense meets the #1 rushing defense. The Eagles offense has found an identity running the ball for over 175 yards in three straight games and passing for 170 yards or less in those games. What's even better news? Miles Sanders 21 day practice window is open and we could see him back this week! Just think back to 2019 when the Eagles rolled out the thunder and lightning. 1, 2 punch of Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard. Howard pounding the ball into the defensive lines and wearing them down. Sanders delivering the knock out chunk plays.
Thanks to an effective run game, the passing game, although not used often, has become more efficient as well. Hurts has completed 64% of passes over the last three weeks after managing that three times over the first seven weeks. Devonta Smith has continued to emerge as every bit the franchise wide receiver we have been looking for. He has 9 catches and 3 touchdowns over the last two weeks. He is really the only piece we have needed to work in the passing game. Goedert remains in concussion protocol, but it would be nice to see him get going. He started with two quick catches Sunday prior to being knocked out of the game.
Defensively the Eagles continue to be insanity by definition and to watch. Gannon makes minimal changes and largely runs the same scheme and pressure, or lack thereof, in all types of game scripts. They rank in the bottom half in the majority of cases, bottom third, of the league in pressure, sacks, hurries and knockdowns per drop back. They blitz at the third lowest rate in the NFL as well. Without a front four generating much for pressure and no additional support being brought, this Eagles defense needs to essentially rely on their secondary to generate stops and turnovers.
The secondary has generated timely turnovers including last weeks fumble return touchdown by Slay and some key Slay interceptions. However, the Eagles still only rank 24th in percentage of opponents drives ending in turnovers.
The Eagles defense gets Trevor Siemien at quarterback, who's looked ok. He has nearly brought the Saints back in the fourth quarter in back-to-back games. Pressure is key. Siemien is a take what he sees, quick read quarterback. If the Eagles are willing to give him the short-intermediate, middle of the field all night, flashback to Derek Carr a few weeks back, he will take it and connect on a large majority of passes and control the pace of the game.
Saints' players to watch:
The offense without Kamara have limited weapons that will strike fear into the Eagles defense. However, despite the limited pressures, Marcus Davenport and Cam Jordan are the two guys to watch. They do a great job on the edges and funnel the run inside which has led to significant success against the run. Plus as mentioned above quarterback knockdowns should not just be shrugged off because it's not equaling sacks or pressures. If Mailata or Johnson allow much room to work, things could get tough for the run game and Hurts in the pocket.
Eagles' players to watch:
I mentioned the main event of the game the Saints top rushing defense against the Eagles top rushing offense. So the players to watch on the Eagles have to be the whole running back room. Plus Nick Sirianni has to have a willingness to stick to the rushing game even if it may be slow at times.
Miles Sanders hasn't been activated yet, but he would be a huge gain for this rushing offense. Until more is known, Jordan Howard and Boston Scott are the running backs likely to see the bigger workload.
With the final injury report out and both tackles and Kamara due to miss Sunday, the Eagles have been thrown a bone. Let's not speak too loudly, but it's starting to look like their game to lose.
I have the Eagles winning a crucial game and reaching 5-6 by a score of 24-17. The defense is going to make some big stops. While the rushing attack will continue to rule the NFL even against the best defense against the rush.