Here’s a roundup of what the national media are saying about tonight’s Eagles-Saints matchup.
Peter King of The MMQB predicts a 27-20 Eagles victory:
I like the best all-around left tackle in football, Jason Peters, to lead the way. Amazing year Peters has had, coming off a 2012 with two torn Achilles tendon surgeries; after the second, he was told he might not play again. That’s why he’s my comeback player of the year. With Peters, left guard Evan Mathis and center Jason Kelce leading the way—all have played an all-pro level this year—Philadelphia has the best left side of the line in football.
King has the Eagles going all the way to the NFC title game before losing to the Seahawks.
Doug Farrar of SI.com with some interesting notes on the Eagles’ defense:
Speaking of expired narratives, let’s disabuse ourselves of the notion that the Eagles’ defense is some sort of sieve. It was, but it isn’t any more. From weeks 1 through 9, Philadelphia ranked 30th in FO’s overall defensive metrics, but they’ve jumped up to 12th overall in weeks 10-17. And before you ask about strength of opponent, keep in mind that DVOA (FO’s primary per-play metric) is adjusted for opponent. The strongest improvement has been against the run, where the Eagles have improved from 22nd to fifth.
Peter Schrager of FoxSports.com predicts a 38-30 Eagles victory:
Drew Brees and Sean Payton and the rest of the Saints have heard it all this week. They can’t win on the road. They’re bad in cold weather. They can’t beat top teams away from the Superdome. They’re going to be playing mad and they’re going to be playing with a chip on their shoulders. It won’t be enough. Philly’s flying. The Lincoln Financial crowd will be rocking on Saturday night. I fully expect the Eagles to come out of the gates like they did two weeks ago against the Bears, and ride that momentum to Chip Kelly’s first postseason win. Drew Brees will get his, but fellow Westlake High School graduate Nick Foles will get even more.
Ashley Fox of ESPN.com sticks up for Eagles fans:
Say what you will about Philadelphia fans, but the Eagles had zero trouble selling out their playoff game against New Orleans, unlike the other three teams hosting games on wild-card weekend.
There was never a concern the game would be blacked out locally. The Eagles didn’t need the NFL to extend the deadline so that they could have their corporate partners jump in and save the day at the last minute.
Nope. Eagles fans bought tickets. All of them. Quickly.
Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders with some fascinating Nick Foles nuggets on ESPN.com:
However, Foles often took shots down the field as well. Foles threw deep (defined as a throw that travels over 15 yards) on 27.4 percent of his passes, which was the highest in the league among qualified starters. Vick was at 31.2 percent in his playing time, so Kelly definitely likes the long ball to go with his strong running game.
The play-action passing game was very beneficial to Foles. He used it on 35.4 percent of his passes (more often than any other starting quarterback in 2013) and only Peyton Manning threw more touchdowns (18) when using play-action than Foles’ 15.
Greg A. Bedard of The MMQB writes that the Eagles have six “purple chip” players:
You can make a very convincing argument that no team is executing better on either side of the ball better than the Eagles. And execution overcomes talent you may lack, which the Eagles do on defense. The Saints play well at home, and terribly on the road. If they don’t figure out how to solve that, the Saints will lose in Philadelphia.
Bill Barnwell of Grantland on the Saints’ road woes:
Consider that the Saints were probably lucky to win their game against the 49ers at home after that phantom penalty on Ahmad Brooks and likewise lost in the last moments of key road games against the Panthers and Patriots, two of the best teams in football. Those were all games where the outcome, win or loss, massively overstates the difference in play between the two teams. So flip the wins and losses in those games for a second. If the Saints are 7-1 at home (having credited them with a loss for the 49ers game) and 5-3 on the road (having now won the Patriots and Panthers games), are we even having this discussion about their performance on the road? Probably not.
Jenny Vrentas of The MMQB profiles Nick Foles:
Developing this fleetness of mind was exactly what Foles was doing during those seven weeks he spent as Vick’s backup from August to October. In practice, he’d station himself 10 or so yards behind the line of scrimmage as Vick took his first-team snaps, simulating these reps for himself. Foles had never been in an offense that employed the zone read, so he’d mimic how Vick read, faked or gave the ball. He’d read the defense in real-time and make his own decision, comparing it to the 11- year veteran’s.
And while Vick steered Kelly’s new offense through its first five NFL games, Foles logged each of Vick’s live reps into what he likes to refer to as his mental “database.”
Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com likes the Saints, 34-31:
The Saints are the only team in the NFC playoffs ranked in the top 10 in the league in both total offense and defense. Yet here they are on the road as an underdog. I think that’s a mistake. Yes, the Eagles have done some really good things on offense with Nick Foles, but they finished last in the league in pass defense. Drew Brees and his receivers have to be salivating at the idea of facing that secondary. The Saints have never won a playoff game as a true road team in five tries. That’s concerning. So is the fact that they are playing outside. They’ve struggled at times in the weather with this offense. But I think the fact that the Eagles’ defense is so bad against the pass will offset that. I will take Brees over Foles in a shootout. Remember, this is the first postseason game for Foles. That matters.
Andy Benoit of The MMQB shows some love for Mychal Kendricks:
The Saints’ offense is less prolific on the road, particularly outdoors. But the Eagles won’t bank their game plan on Mother Nature; they’ll bank it on second-year inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks. Though an argument can be made for vastly improved corners Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher and Brandon Boykin, Kendricks has been the most valuable player on a defense that’s held 11 of its last 12 opponents to fewer than 23 points. He is Philly’s top coverage linebacker, which would seemingly make him a key factor against a Saints offense that gets the ball to big-time weapons at tight end (Jimmy Graham) and running back (Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas) using myriad screens and seam patterns. Philly’s defensive coordinator Billy Davis, however, featured Kendricks more as a blitzer down the stretch, with fruitful results.
Elliot Harrison of NFL.com predicts a 28-24 Eagles victory:
It’s doubtful Philly quarterback Nick Foles will do the Saints any favors this weekend; New Orleans can’t count on him to cough up multiple short-field-producing turnovers. And there will be no Superdome crowd to lean on, no screaming masses to slow the Eagles’ calls at the line of scrimmage. Drew Brees will have to keep up. I expect both defenses to bring it in this one, which leads us to …
… Ground Chip: Everyone knows Philly coach Chip Kelly wants to score points, but given how well his offense can run the football, why not do that as much as possible? The Saints allowed 111.6 rushing yards per game and 4.61 yards per carry this season. The Eagles, meanwhile, led the NFL in rushing yards and rushing plays of 10-plus yards, and had the highest percentage of rushing plays that gained 4 yards or more. “Ground Chuck” worked in the 1970s. The Eagles will pound it on Saturday.