Welcome aboard the bandwagon, folks.
Are you hearing the hype about the Eagles' season? Are your texts blowing up with friends figuring out where to catch Sunday’s playoff game?
Oh, but you haven’t watched any Birds games this season? This guide’s for you.
If you’re just tuning in for the season, here are the very, very basics on the game, with help from Inquirer and Daily News sports producer Katie McInerney.
The teams face off at 4:40 p.m. Eastern Time Sunday (3:40 p.m. New Orleans time) on FOX.
The Eagles-Saints divisional-round game is the Birds' second playoff game of the season. The Eagles' first playoff game — a wild-card match-up against the Chicago Bears — ended in a close 16-15 victory after Bears kicker Cody Parkey’s last-minute field-goal attempt bounced off the upright, and then the crossbar, giving the Eagles the win. Have you been hearing “doink doink” all week? That’s why.
Three other divisional-round games will be played. The Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams are competing Saturday for a spot in the NFC championship game (8:15 p.m., Fox); the winner of that game will face the Eagles or Saints.
Competing for spots in the AFC championship are the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs, who play on Saturday (4:35 p.m., NBC), and the L.A. Chargers and New England Patriots, who play on Sunday (1:05 p.m., CBS).
If the Eagles beat the Saints, they go on to play the winner of the Cowboys-Rams game in the NFC championship game on Jan. 20. If they win that game, the team would head to the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.
If the Eagles lose Sunday, they’re done for the season.
McInerney’s take on which opponent might make for a more intriguing NFC championship game: “Fans might want the Eagles to face the Rams, because they’ve already played and won, rather than the Cowboys who the Eagles lost to twice this season. But there’s so much bad blood between Cowboys and Eagles fans, it’d probably be really vindicating for them to play and beat the Cowboys and move on to the NFC championship game … so either way, it’s going to be really fun.”
It’s complicated. As the defending Super Bowl champs, many expected the Eagles to make the playoffs. But as the season started, the team “lost games people expected them to win,” McInerney said. But the team turned it around in the second half of the season, which coincided with quarterback Carson Wentz getting injured and Nick Foles taking over in the position.
“They’re looking like the team that people thought they were going to be at the start of the year," McInerney said.
Still, the slow start means that the Eagles, who enjoyed home-field advantage throughout the playoffs last year, are on the road this postseason.
The Saints beat the Eagles in a crushing 48-7 defeat during Week 11, so there’s no doubt that Sunday’s game will be a challenge. Though, the Eagles are a bit of a different team than when the two last met.
McInerney explains: “They’re more evenly matched than they were in November because the Eagles got so many people back from injuries, and because the offense has been rolling more. But they’re going to have to score more than one touchdown. This isn’t going to be a defensive battle — they’re going to have to score a lot of points.”
» More on this: Eagles-Saints scouting report and prediction
Yes. Nate Sudfeld in the team’s No. 2 quarterback. Carson Wentz, who is dealing with a fractured vertebra, is on the active roster but is “still getting healthy,” Eagles beat writer Zach Berman reported earlier this week.
A few things come to mind for McInerney:
The Saints have one of best quarterbacks in the NFL, Drew Brees, and they have a really dynamic approach to how they do things. They also have a couple running backs — Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram — who are among best in the league. … But last week, the Eagles were able to shut down Tarik Cohen and the Bears' rushing attack, and according to Paul Domowitch, the Eagles have held their last three opponents to just 3.0 yards per carry.
I’d say that it’s going to be a really different game because it’s a totally different approach now that Foles is starting. Things were tough for Wentz in the earlier part of the season because of the offensive line wasn’t 100 percent — especially in the previous Saints game. and some of those guys are still hurt but they played most of the [Bears game] … if the offensive line plays like they did against the Bears and against the Rams before then, they’ll have a really good shot to get the offense going.
The Eagles secondary, their safeties and corners, struggled against the Bears. There are a couple dudes who were on the practice squad. They’re just not as experienced, they’re young, they’re not as elite, but they had to play because everyone — Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Ronald Darby — got hurt. So that will be huge, they’re going to have a really tough time shutting Brees and receiver Michael Thomas. But if they can limit the ground game, if the running backs can’t do anything, it might make it easier.
It’s probably going to be pretty loud and wild in the Superdome. It’s an indoor stadium and Saints fans are pretty notorious … so that’ll be a factor. I think the Eagles are probably less affected by that than some teams because they’ve been there before — they went to a Super Bowl.
Domowitch points out that the Saints haven’t lost a playoff game at home since 1992. But that loss was to none other than the Eagles.