The 9-7 (1-0) Philadelphia Eagles:
After losing their starting quarterback Carson Wentz to a back injury in Week 14, the 9-7 (1-0) Philadelphia Eagles have (once again) called on backup Nick Foles to lead them to the Super Bowl, and he’s responded with four starts and the same number of wins in a row.
The latest Foles-led victory was during Wild Card Weekend, when the steel-nerved second-stringer completed 25-of-40 for 266 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, including a fourth quarter march to the end zone against the Chicago Bears number one ranked defense.
Philadelphia was just 4-4 on the road in the regular season, which didn’t stop them from beating the Bears in Chicago, and last time they traveled to the Superdome in Week 11 they got stomped by the Saints 7-48, but of course that was without Foles the miracle worker.
The 13-3 New Orleans Saints:
After sitting a lot of their starters in Week 17 and taking just their third regular season loss as a result, the 13-3 New Orleans Saints are healed up and well-rested and ready to begin their journey to the Super Bowl.
Quarterback Drew Brees threw for just under 4,000 yards during his fifteen games of the regular season, but he did it with deadly accuracy and a league-high completion rate of 74.4, ending up with 32 touchdown passes and just 5 interceptions.
New Orleans can be beat in the Superdome – they’re 6-2 at home – but Brees and company are averaging 31.5 points per game and it’s highly unlikely that the Eagles’ 23rd ranked defense can prevent them from putting up enough points to win on Sunday.
What’s at stake:
These two teams have met 31 times (including 3 postseason games), with New Orleans winning 14 games and Philadelphia winning 17 games. The Saints have won 4 of the last 5 meetings, their latest victory earlier this season in Week 11, the score New Orleans 48, Philadelphia 7.
Whoever wins this matchup will go on to the Conference Championships.
They’ll play the winner of the other NFC Divisional Round matchup, either the fourth-seeded 10-6 (2-0) Dallas Cowboys or the second seed, the 13-3 (1-0) Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, January 20 at either 2:05 pm or 5:40 pm.
And of course, whichever team loses this one goes home, their 2018 season finally over.
Questions to answer…
Who’s favored to win this NFL Playoffs Divisional Round Eagles-Saints matchup?
Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?
Which team’s quarterback is more likely to lead his team to victory?
We’re going to compare the Eagles and the Saints and attempt to answer those questions and more.
The 2018 Eagles offense ranked 14th in the NFL
Philadelphia’s offense scores an average of 22.9 points per game (over 8 points less than the Saints average) and moves the ball 365.3 yards each week.
Overall, Foles did not have a great game against the Wild Card Bears (see above), but he played well enough to throw a game winning touchdown to receiver Golden Tate on fourth and goal with just a minute left to play in the game.
Tate, a midseason acquisition, proved his worth with that game winner, along with making 4 other receptions for a total of 46 yards with that final scrambling touchdown.
Eagles’ rushing attack ranked 28th overall
Philadelphia’s running game features Josh Adams, an undrafted free agent rookie, Wendell Smallwood, a third-year player, and Darren Sproles, an oft-injured 13-year veteran.
Wild Card Weekend numbers: Adams (1 touch, 2 yards from scrimmage), Smallwood (10 touches, 40 yards from scrimmage) and Sproles (15 touches, 35 yards from scrimmage).
Philadelphia offensive Injuries
Listed as questionable for NFL Playoffs Divisional Round: wide receivers Mike Wallace (ankle), Golden Tate (knee) and Alshon Jeffery (rib) and offensive tackle Jason Peters (quadriceps).
Quarterback Carson Wentz (back) is getting better and is waiting to gain clearance from doctors to participate in practices.
The 2018 Saints offense ranked 8th overall
The New Orleans Saints are the odds on favorite to win the Super Bowl this year, and that’s due to their top-ten offense that can score through the air but also has a running game that can keep them on the field to eat up game time.
No doubt their success has to do with GOAT contending quarterback Drew Brees, who averages 252.6 passing yards per game and who this season broke his own NFL record for pass completion.
Brees favorite target (besides everybody) is Michael Thomas, the league’s most efficient receiver who caught for the most yards, 1,405, on 125 receptions.
New Orleans’s run game 6th in the league
The Saints backfield is dangerous due to running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram.
During the regular season, in 16 games Kamara had 275 touches for 1,592 yards from scrimmage and 18 touchdowns, while Ingram, in 12 games, had 159 touches for 815 yards from scrimmage and 7 touchdowns.
New Orleans offensive Injuries
Listed as questionable for NFL Playoffs Divisional Round: guards Andrus Peat (hand) and Larry Warford (knee) and tackles Ryan Ramczyk (shoulder), Jermon Bushrod (hamstring) and Terron Armstead (pectoral).
Eagles Defense ranks 23rd in the league
Philadelphia’s defense holds opponents to 21.8 points and 366.2 total yards per game with a rush defense ranked 7th and a pass defense ranked 30th.
The Eagles have just 10 team interceptions (25th most) and they have accumulated 44 total sacks (8th most).
Eagles Defensive Players to watch:
The Eagles with the most tackles against the Wild Card Bears were cornerback Rasul Douglas (8) and outside linebacker Nigel Bradham (7).
Defensive end Michael Bennett continued his quarterback-hunting run with a postseason sack on Bears’ quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
Philadelphia’s defense never picked off Trubisky, but during the regular season Douglas had 3 interceptions so look for him to keep Brees honest.
Eagles defensive injuries
Listed as questionable for NFL Playoffs Divisional Round: defensive end Michael Bennett (foot), cornerback Sidney Jones (hamstring) and linebacker D.J. Alexander (hamstring).
Saints Defense is 14th overall
Opponents of the Saints average 22.1 points and move the ball 349.1 total yards per game against a New Orleans rush defense ranked 2nd and a pass defense ranked 29th.
New Orleans has 12 total interceptions, tied for 18th most in the league, and they’re tied for fifth most sacks with 49 of them.
Saints Defensive Players to watch:
The best tackler on the Saints this season has been outside linebacker Demario Davis, who had 110 combined tackles, 5.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Besides Davis, the two other Saints sack specialists are defensive end Cameron Jordan (12.0 sacks) and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (8.0 sacks).
Ready to pick off Eagles’ backup quarterback Nick Foles are Cornerback Eli Apple and defensive back Chris Banjo, who each have 2 interceptions in the regular season.
Saints Defensive Injuries
Listed as questionable for NFL Playoffs Divisional Round: defensive end Alex Okafor (knee).
Special Teams Stats Comparison
Philadelphia’s second-year punter, Cameron Johnston, signed as an undrafted free agent last season, punted 61 times in the regular season for a net average of 42.7 yards per punt, ranked T-3rd in the NFL.
In the postseason, Johnston has punted 5 times for a net average of 45.2 yards per punt.
New Orleans’ punter, Thomas Morstead, was a fifth-round draft pick back in 2009 and in 2018 he punted 43 times for a net average of 43.2 yards per punt, ranked first in the league overall.
Philadelphia’s placekicker, Jake Elliott, promoted from the practice squad last season, went 26-for-31 during 2018, his longest was a 56-yarder.
Elliott also missed two extra point attempts (33/35).
In the postseason, Elliott has gone 1-for-1, his longest was a 43-yarder and has missed no extra point attempts (1/1).
New Orleans’ placekicker, Wil Lutz, in his third season, went 28-for-30 this year, his longest a 56-yarder.
Lutz has missed one extra point attempt (52/53).
Philadelphia’s punt returner is running back Darren Sproles, ranked T-30th in the league in return average for the 2018 season.
Sproles returned 10 punts for 83 yards, averaging 8.3 yards per return, his longest for 14 yards.
In the postseason, Sproles has returned 1 punt for -1 yard.
New Orleans’ punt returner, running back Alvin Kamara, is ranked 46th in the league in return average this regular season.
Kamara returned 12 punts for 82 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 6.8 yards per return, his longest for 16 yards.
Eagles–Saints prediction and odds
The odds makers have the Saints favored over the Eagles by 8 with an over/under of 50.5.
CBSSports.com has two final score predictions:
Will Brinson goes with the over and has it Saints 38, Eagles 24
John Breech takes the over and predicts it Saints 31, Eagles 24