JEFF MCLANE Record, 1-6.
Week 9: With all three other NFC East teams losing on Sunday the Eagles have the opportunity to make some ground up on the rest of the division. If they win they’re a game up on the 3-5 Cowboys, a game and a half ahead of the 3-6 Redskins and only a game and a half behind the 6-3 New York Giants, a team they already beat.
So the Eagles, realistically, aren’t out of this thing. But if they lose, then they’re just another also-ran and you can start packing Andy Reid’s bags for San Diego.
I got the Eagles losing after picking them to win the previous three games, which, of course, they didn’t. So take it with a grain of salt. Still, I don’t think the Eagles can win a track meet, which is what I see this game turning into. The Eagles offense just isn’t as potent as it once was. And the defense will have trouble slowing down Drew Brees. The Saints quarterback gets the ball out quick, but that’s no excuse for Jason Babin or Trent Cole not generating enough pressure, which they won’t once again.
It won’t be all the defensive line’s fault, however. Brees will have a field day picking on safety David Sims, who is expected to fill in for the injured Nate Allen.
The Eagles will keep it close, however. LeSean McCoy finally gets back into the rhythm against the Saints’ struggling run defense. McCoy has been great indoors, averaging 104.2 yards and 6.7 yards a carry in his last five games in a dome.
The problem for the Eagles offense will be the return of turnovers. With Marty Mornhinweg and Michael Vick talking at great length about how the passing game has been timid, expect to see some over-aggressiveness which will lead to an interception or two.
Turnovers, as they often do, will decide the outcome. Saints 30, Eagles 28.
What goes right: Eagles special teams finally provides Brandon Boykin with some running room and he takes a kick return past midfield.
What goes wrong: Saints tight end Jimmy Graham gives the Eagles linebackers and safeties a headache.
Week 9: It will go from bad to worse for the Eagles and their defense. Brees and the Saints offense will have no trouble moving the ball, and the Saints’ top-ranked passing game will confound the Eagles’ coverages. In particular, look for a big game from Saints tight end Graham – a tough matchup for any team, but one who will be especially difficult for the Eagles to defend.
The Saints have the worst rushing offense in the NFL. Darren Sproles is sidelined with a broken hand, and he’s actually more of a threat catching the ball out of the backfield. That could open up time for Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, and Chris Ivory to run and add a different dimension to the offense. They’ll miss Sproles’ shiftiness out of the backfield – he’s built similarly to Atlanta’s Jacquizz Rodgers, who hurt the Eagles in the screen game last week – but the Brees-Graham connection will help offset that loss.
On offense, expect McCoy to have his best game of the season. The Saints struggle against the run, and the Eagles will make more of an effort to run than they have in previous weeks. Of course, it all depends on the score. If they fall into a quick two-score deficit again, then Vick will try to win a shootout with Brees. That’s not the best way for the Eagles to win. The key will be giving the ball to McCoy and extending drives to gain momentum.
The Eagles have scored three touchdowns just once this season, but they’ll do it again on Monday. The problem is the Saints will score more points, and the Eagles and Cowboys will both meet next with 3-5 records in a game that could turn into a quasi-elimination game.
Saints 31, Eagles 27.
What goes right: McCoy tops 100 rushing yards and the Eagles offense plays its best game of the season.
What goes wrong: The defensive line struggles to pressure Brees, and he and Graham dominate the Eagles’ defense.