The Saints went 13-3, grabbed the NFC’s No. 1 seed, have one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, and have a running game that would make Jim Brown proud. So, naturally, the guy running the show grew up a fan of the Broad Street Bullies.
Here are 25 things to know about the Eagles' opponent this week, including a nod to the guy behind the first Saints victory in franchise history. It came against you-know-who.
1 Sean Payton’s first NFL job was quarterbacks coach for the Eagles under Ray Rhodes in 1997-98. He was recommended to Rhodes by then-Packers quarterbacks coach Andy Reid, who gave Rhodes two names: Payton and Dirk Koetter. When the Eagles cleaned house in 1999, they made Reid the head coach while Payton went to the Giants.
2 Payton, 55, spent part of his youth living in Delaware County’s Newtown Square. He was at the parade as an 11-year-old the last time the Flyers won the championship, in 1975. "Hockey became big after Philadelphia had won those back-to-back Stanley Cups,” he told the Inquirer in 2007. "I remember those days like it was yesterday, the accomplishments, and I remember when they played the Russians, and the Russians walked off the ice [after a violent hit by Ed Van Impe], and as kids we thought we were winning the Cold War right there. It was a great childhood.”
3 Wide receiver Michael Thomas was the only Saints player named first-team All-Pro. Four guys – quarterback Drew Brees, left tackle Terron Armstead, right tackle Ryan Damczyk, and defensive end Cameron Jordan -- were named to the second team.
4 This will be the fourth time there’s a playoff rematch of a regular-season game with a 40-plus-points margin, according to Jim Trotter of NFL.com. In 1969, the Browns lost to the Vikings, 51-3, in the regular season and 27-7 in the conference championship game. In 1991, the Lions got hammered by Washington, 45-0, in the opener and 41-10 in the NFC title game, But in 2010, Mark Sanchez and the Jets avenged a 45-3 December loss to New England by stunning the Patriots in the divisional round, 28-21. The Jets were 9.5-point underdogs, slightly more than the eight points the Eagles are getting.
5 Leading tackler Demario Davis spent three days in jail his freshman year at Arkansas State after being arrested for shoplifting groceries at a Walmart. He embraced Christianity soon after and changed the direction of his life. He’s involved in numerous philanthropic endeavors, including the founding of the Devoted Dreamers Academy, “I believe life is all about what you do to impact other individuals,” Davis told the (Baton Rouge) Advocate over the summer. “It’s not about yourself."
6 Davis, who turned 30 on Friday, is first cousins with late NFL quarterback Steve McNair.
7 Safety Kurt Coleman, an Eagles seventh-round pick in 2010, played in all 16 games for the Saints. He started nine, but just one in the final month of the season – the meaningless Week 17 loss to Carolina.
8 The Saints are 5-0 at home in the playoffs in the Drew Brees/Sean Payton era, 2-5 on the road.
9 Max Unger and Atlanta’s Alex Mack were the centers named to the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster. Eagles center Jason Kelce, who was first-team All-Pro, made the Pro Bowl team only as an alternate.
10 The first win in Saints franchise history came against the Eagles in 1967. Flanker Walter “The Flea” Roberts scored three touchdowns for the Saints. He missed the previous week’s game because he was on duty as a Louisiana National Guardsman keeping peace at Grambling College during student protests. “You think about the guys crawling around in Vietnam and then you think about giving up five days because of a demonstration, and you realize how lucky you are,” he told the Inquirer after the Saints beat the Eagles. “I have nothing to gripe about.” Different time, huh?
11 The Saints gave up 20 sacks, second fewest in the league behind Indianapolis’ 18. New Orleans gave up two in Week 17 when it rested its regulars.
12 There’s been some trash-talking on both sides since Saints running back Alvin Kamara suggested New Orleans would have handled the Eagles in last season’s NFC title game if the Vikings’ Minneapolis Miracle touchdown hadn’t knocked them out the week before.
13 Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins was spotted flipping off Saints coach Sean Payton during New Orleans’ 48-7 win in November. Jenkins, who played for Payton and the Saints from 2009 to 2013, was not showing his former coach his newest Super Bowl ring.
14 Nick Foles and Drew Brees both attended Westlake High School in Austin, Texas. The only other high school to produce two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks is Newman High School in New Orleans (Peyton and Eli Manning).
15 Wide receiver Michael Thomas set the franchise record with 1,405 receiving yards. He led the league with 125 receptions despite not being in the top 10 in targets. (Zach Ertz was second in receptions with 116.)
16 New Orleans acquired cornerback Eli Apple (South Jersey’s Eastern High Schiool) in October from the Giants for fourth- and seventh-round picks. Apple has started every game for the Saints and played pretty well.
17 The Saints have one of the best running games in football. They were sixth in rushing yards and first in rushing touchdowns. Their 471 rushing attempts were the most they’ve had in 12 years.
18 Running back Alvin Kamara has 34 touchdowns over the last two seasons, including playoffs. Only Todd Gurley, of the Rams (40), has more. Kamara has 23 rushing, 10 receiving, and one on a kickoff return.
19 Kamara averaged 12.9 carries per game this season. Teammate Mark Ingram had 11.5.
20 Tight end Benjamin Watson, who is retiring after the season, has authored two books. One is a guide for new fathers, the other examines racial discrimination. An Alabama judge over the summer originally ordered that that book, titled “Under Our Skin,” be read by litigants in a school desegregation case. She later withdrew the order.
21 Temple product Keith Kirkwood was called up from the practice squad in Week 10. He had 13 catches in eight games and two touchdowns. He had three grabs for 33 yards against the Eagles.
22 Taysom Hill is listed as a quarterback, but the Saints use him all over the field. New Orleans pounced on Hill after Green Bay cut him at the end of training camp in 2017. He played quarterback at Brigham Young and suffered season-ending injuries four times.
23 Saints kicker Wil Lutz had a much better season than last week’s Eagles opponent. Lutz was 52-for-53 on extra points and 28-for-30 kicking field goals. All three of his missed kicks, including field goals of 44 and 50 yards, came at home. Hmmmm.
24 Drew Brees has 12 touchdown passes and one interception in five home playoff games. The Saints quarterback turns 40 on Tuesday, has one year left on his contrac,t and is revered in the locker room.