The Philadelphia Eagles are set to continue their 2015 NFL season schedule on Sunday with a game against the New Orleans Saints. Both of these NFC teams enter this game with the same record: 1-3. They each desperately need a win.
Today, we're going to look at why a Saintss writer thinks the Eagles might win this game. This format forces us to consider each team's weaknesses, rather than just think of why each team is awesome.
So here's why the New Orleans will lose, as written by Saints writer Jean-Rene Ella. Check out Canal Street Chronicles to see why I think the Eagles could lose.
Why New Orleans Will Lose
In the Sean Payton era, the New Orleans Saints have been a perennially-great offense. Well, in the 10th season of the Payton regime in New Orleans, you can put the "offensive juggernaut" tag on hold for the Saints. Although New Orleans is ranked 8th in "total offense" by Football Outsiders, the team is 19th in "scoring offense" through four games at 21.5 points per game (ppg). With a defense that has been allowing 26.0 ppg (23rd in the NFL), that's one reason the Saints are 1-3.
Even more damning is the fact that so far this season the Saints' offense has been one-dimensional: New Orleans averages 3.4 yards per rushing play, which is 30th in the NFL. When your passing game is firing on all cylinders, not being able to run the ball isn't that big of a deal. But when your offensive line is average and your quarterback is not 100%, you're in trouble, and that's where the Saints find themselves so far this season. One thing the Eagles are certainly going to be able to do is stack the box, play man-coverage and try to get after Brees and find out for themselves just how healthy Brees' right shoulder really is.
How much time do we have to enumerate the reasons why the Saints will lose because of their defense? Or I could make it a very short argument: the Saints will lose because their defense takes the field. But let me elaborate a little bit, for those who haven't paid attention to Rob Ryan's unit: Football Outsiders has them ranked 32nd overall in the NFL, 32nd against the pass and 12th against the run. So if there ever was a time for Sam Bradford to fix his passing woes and feel good about himself, Sunday afternoon against the Saints' secondary is it. The problems are multiple: the team had lost veteran cornerback Keenan Lewis and safety Jairus Byrd to injuries for the first three weeks; they returned in a limited role against the Cowboys last Sunday night. New Orleans has also been playing no less than five rookies on its starting defense, which as you would expect, has led to some growing pains. To make matters worse, the Saints' defense has yet to record an interception through four games. One reason for the lack of interceptions is that the front four has been pretty quiet. The Saints only have seven sacks on the year (19th in the NFL). Cam Jordan, the team's best pass rusher, has been close a few times, alas no cigar: 11 QB hurries, but only two QB hits and a lone sack through four games. Opposing quarterbacks have largely been comfortable in the pocket when facing the Saints' defense this season and I expect that to continue on Sunday.
Whether it's bad scouting or just a very impatient head coach, the Saints under Sean Payton have always been a revolving door for kickers. Last week, Zach Hocker missed a 30-yard field goal with a few seconds left in the fourth quarter of the Saints-Cowboys game with the score tied at 20. The field goal would've likely won the game for the Saints in regulation, but instead New Orleans found itself going to overtime trying to win their first game of the season. Fortunately for Hocker, New Orleans won the toss and Brees hit C. J. Spiller for the winning touchdown in overtime. Amidst the euphoria of the win, Sean Payton said half-jokingly and half-angrily that the team might have to go for two every time they scored, given that extra points are now 33 yards away, which is actually farther than the missed field goal. Hocker is 7 for 9 (78%) on field goals this season and has already had an extra point blocked. Although he is still on the team, the Saints' kicker is hanging on to his roster spot by a thinning thread. Another reason the Saints will not be favored to win this week is the fact that they're traveling to Philadelphia without knowing whether they can rely on their kicker to win the game if it comes to that. They certainly hope it won't.