With the Eagles and Saints scheduled to face off on Saturday night, I reached out to the SB Nation Saints site: Canal Street Chronicles. Wallace Delery kindly took the time to answer my questions about the big game.
Let's take a look at the questions and answers.
1) Name a Saints player on offense and defense that the Eagles need to watch for.
On offense, the player to watch would be rookie WR Kenny Stills. Stills is the Saints' often overlooked weapon since the opposition puts so much focus on containing Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles, and Marques Colston among others. Stills finished the season with an NFL leading 20 yards-per-catch, not too shabby.
On defense, all of the attention will rightfully go to the pass-rushing duo of DE Cam Jordan and OLB Junior Galette, as they are 5th and 6th in the NFL in sacks respectively. Although this is the case, I think MLB Curtis Lofton will be a key factor if the Saints are to succeed in Philly. Lofton can be a liability in pass coverage but he is stout against the run. His physicality and smarts will be paramount in Rob Ryan's chess match against Chip Kelly and the NFL's top rusher, LeSean McCoy.
2) The Saints have the second best passing attack in the league, yards-wise. What makes that passing attack so dangerous?
Versatility. The Saints have WR type talent at positions outside of WR. Jimmy Graham is the NFL's most dominant TE, Darren Sproles plays much like an extra WR in the backfield, and Pierre Thomas' hands and vision makes him arguably the NFL's most dangerous RB in the screen game. Oh, and the Saints' WR corps may be among the league's most underrated units.
3) How concerning are the Saints' road struggles? Is this is an overblown issue or a legitimate weakness?
Concern is an understatement to say the least. Both the Saints and Saints fans need some serious medication due to the road struggles. Only the poor offensive line play this season has been more concerning. This is a legitimate mental issue, we'll see if it continues this Saturday.
4) Philly fans are more than familiar with Rob Ryan due to his tenure as the Dallas Cowboys' coordinator. Ryan has seemingly been overrated in the past, but Saints defense looks competent under him. What are the strengths of this unit?
The defensive line is the heart and soul of this defensive unit, everything starts and ends with the pass rush up front. The banged-up secondary has benefitted greatly from the front seven being able to get pressure consistently without having to compromise the back end. Thanks to the d-line and OLB Junior Galette, the Saints are fourth in the NFL in sacks. Getting to Foles early and often is huge.
5) Let's hear a score prediction. Who wins this game and why?
Had this game been played in New Orleans, the Saints would win by three scores, but it's not, and this game will be very, very close. The temperature and crowd noise will undoubtedly be a factor on Saturday night. Ultimately, the Saints experiences in facing the NFL's top two defenses (Seattle and Carolina) three times in the last five weeks, as well as the grossly underrated St. Louis front four, has forged the Saints in fire down the stretch. The Eagles defense will have to rise to the level of its rushing offense in this one. I like the Saints, and not my nervous system, road playoff history be damned.
Prediction: Saints 24 - Eagles 21