Three-And-Out: Eagles-Saints Predictions
After their third loss of the season, the Eagles will try to turn things around against the Saints tomorrow. Tim and Josh discuss whom to keep an eye on, who will win and more.
PLAYER I’LL BE WATCHING
McManus: Jason Peters
Peters played just six snaps against Washington after aggravating a quad injury that he suffered late in the Jets game the week prior. On Monday, Chip Kelly was asked about handling injured players pushing to be part of the active game-day roster.
“We had a couple guys that just went for a couple of plays on Sunday. You can’t then re-sub and say, ‘Hey we need to activate somebody else.’ You have to live with it, so we’ll have to make some determinations as we get to Sunday.”
Kelly called Peters as tough of a guy that he’s been around in his three years in Philly, but said he’s one of the players that they would have to take a hard look at this week to determine how much he can realistically give the team against New Orleans.
Given that toughness, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Peters declared that he will play against the Saints (he’s officially questionable). Whether he’ll make it to the finish line is another story altogether. The 33-year-old has been forced to the sideline (even if briefly) in each of the first four games because of injury. If he misses significant time against New Orleans, an already disheveled offensive line will have to reshuffle once again on the fly. Kelly will have to cross his fingers when it comes to both Peters and Lane Johnson, who is fighting through an MCL and ankle sprain.
Paunil: DeMeco Ryans
This may seem out of left field, but one thing I’m very curious about is how Ryans will cover C.J. Spiller and the Saints’ other running backs on pass plays. I imagine New Orleans will try to get their backs in space against the veteran linebacker as Ryans hasn’t been great in coverage so far this season.
Man-to-man coverage pitting Ryans against the backs may not happen that much, but with a quarterback as smart as Drew Brees, I expect the Saints to exploit those opportunities. According to Pro Football Focus, he also ranks 33rd out of 36 qualifying linebackers in run stop percentage (3.7).
As you’ve written about, Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond have led the secondary to a surprisingly strong start this season, but that doesn’t include the linebackers in coverage. The more I see Jordan Hicks next to Ryans on the field, the more I wonder how much playing time the rookie will take from the veteran when Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks eventually return.
OVER/UNDER: 2 1/2 TD passes for Drew Brees — Whaddya got?
McManus: I’m going under. Brees hasn’t exactly been dominant against the Eagles over his career. He’s 3-2 against Philly as the starter, averaging two touchdowns and one pick per outing. In the playoff win at the Linc back in 2013, Brees threw two interceptions to one touchdown and finished with a 75.7 rating.
Billy Davis‘ unit has improved since the last encounter. And while Brees was able to fight through the pain to put up good numbers last week in Dallas (80.5 completion rate, 2 TDS), it’s unlikely that his shoulder is 100 percent coming in. Maxwell is expected to play, and I think the secondary does a respectable job against one of the league’s best.
Paunil: I’ll also take the under. Through three games, Brees has only thrown more than one touchdown pass in a game once, and he didn’t do so against Dallas until overtime. Brees lost his best red zone target when Jimmy Graham was traded to Seattle, causing the focal point of his offense to shift from tight end to running back.
New Orleans ranks near the bottom of the league in passing touchdowns, while the Eagles’ defense is in the top half of the NFL in that category. The Saints are tied for fifth, however, in rushing touchdowns as three different backs have reached the end zone. Long story short? Expect to see the ball in the running backs’ hands when the Saints enter the red zone.
McManus: Saints 24, Eagles 23
New Orleans (1-3) is not exactly a juggernaut and the Eagles are 1) desperate and 2) playing at home, so I wouldn’t be shocked if they pulled this one out, but it’s hard to put much faith in this team after what they showed us during the first quarter of the season.
There are several issues that can be pointed to, but the biggest (and potentially fatal) flaw lies along the offensive front. As you did a great job of explaining this week, Josh, every player on the line has had his share of miscues. Jason Kelce is not playing up to his standards and three-fifths of the line is banged up right now. Maybe they can get it together and provide the ground game and Sam Bradford with some air to breathe, but I’m just not banking on it.
Paunil: Eagles 20, Saints 13
The Saints just aren’t very good. You can certainly say the same about the Eagles, but given how New Orleans defends, I expect Philadelphia to move the ball well in spurts as they did against Washington.
The Saints ranks in the bottom third in the NFL in points allowed, and are last in yards per pass attempt. After seeing Bradford complete four passes of at least 30 yards Sunday, I predict a couple more tomorrow.
As you alluded to, I’m concerned about the offensive line as well. I’d be surprised if both Peters and Johnson make it through the whole game, and the Eagles’ depth at that position isn’t exactly inspiring. But even if they give up a few sacks, they can win this game.