The Philadelphia Eagles (4-5) and New Orleans Saints (8-1) are set to play on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. In order to preview this Week 11 matchup, I reached out to our enemies over at Canal Street Chronicles. The cunning Chris Dunnells (@dunnellz) took the time to answer my questions about the upcoming game. Let’s take a look at his answers.
1 - SB Nation’s FanPulse results show that Eagles fans are expecting an 11-point loss while Saints fans are expecting an 11-point win. In other words, the Saints are clear favorites. But do you think there’s any trap game potential here? And if the Saints would lose this game somehow, how would that happen?
The only thing that could make this be a “trap” game is if the Saints are overlooking the Eagles to their Thanksgiving Day matchup against the division rival Atlanta Falcons.
But point spread aside, I think this game is going to be a lost closer than talking heads would predict. I’m personally terrified of this matchup. The Saints defense has consistently done one thing well all season, and that’s stop the run. They have also consistently struggled against one thing this season, and that’s defend the pass - especially deep balls. After losing Jay Ajayi, the Eagles don’t really have much of a run game to lean on, and I think that plays to their benefit this week. If the Saints were to lose, I think it’s because both teams get into a shootout and the Eagles were just fortunate enough to have the ball on the final drive or the Saints made one more error (maybe a turnover or failing to punch it into the end zone) on offense. I don’t see either team winning by double digits.
For what it’s worth, this will also be the first game in 2018 the Saints will be without their starting left tackle, Terron Armstead. In his place, the ageless Jermon Bushrod will be forced to step in. Time will tell how he holds up as a starter at this point in his career. While the Saints offensive line has been stellar (allowing only one sack combined to the Vikings, Ravens, Rams, and Bengals), that could change this week.
2 - If you could steal any player from the Eagles’ roster to add to the Saints, who would it be and why?
The Saints offense has been incredible in 2018, and that’s with the Saints primary receiving corps consisting of Michael Thomas and...well...that’s it. Yes, the Saints lean on Alvin Kamara as a pass-catcher as well, but the Saints haven’t really gotten anything else out of their other wide receivers or their tight ends. Could you imagine what Drew Brees and Sean Payton could do with Michael Thomas wide, Ertz in the slot, Kamara and Mark Ingram in the backfield, and X-factor Taysom Hill lined up as another tight end? It would be absolutely unstoppable.
We’ve seen what the Saints do with elite tight ends (See, Graham, Jimmy 2011). If the Saints had Ertz, I really couldn’t see a weak point on this offense.
That being said, the Saints offense isn’t really the problem. If I were to look on the other side of the ball, my options on the Eagles roster is limited due to injuries. So if I’m forced to pick a healthy player, I’d go with Michael Bennett. Yes, he’s on the wrong side of 30, but he’s still a force to be reckoned with, and he could cause havoc on the defensive line.
(For what it’s worth, I’d prefer a healthy cornerback, but it doesn’t seem like you’ve got any of those to spare right now...)
3 - What is the Saints’ biggest strength? Where do they have the biggest edge in this game?
Drew Brees, the 2018 NFL MVP (Sorry, Patrick Mahomes, but this is Drew’s year. Just come to terms with it now).
Drew has thrown “only” 21 touchdowns in 2018, but has also thrown only one interception. And now typically as a fan of a team, you can watch all of a team’s games and say, “Whew, the quarterback is lucky to not have that ball picked off there.” But guess what? That hasn’t happened. Aside from his one interception, I can’t think of a single ball that Drew has thrown that was even a *near* pick. His ability to protect the football and throw his receivers open is absolutely incredible, especially considering his almost 40 years old.
4 - What is the Saints’ biggest weakness? What matchup concerns you the most about the Eagles?
As I said earlier, the Saints biggest weakness is the play of their secondary, specifically the slot cornerback. The Saints signed Patrick Robinson (heard of him?) this offseason to fill that role, but he was lost to IR early in the season. The Saints have been forced to play PJ Williams in the slot, and to say he’s struggled, would be like saying the Eagles’s 2018 season has been kind of disappointing to their fans.
Go back and look at Golden Tate’s numbers against the Saints. He’s a Saints KILLER.
96 yards and a TD in 2017. 145 yards and a TD in 2016. 45 yards but TWO TDs in 2015. 154 yards and a TD in 2014...
You get the picture.
In Tate’s first game with the Eagles last week, he failed to impress, but that’s largely due to needing time to understand Pederson’s complicated playbook. He should be much more familiar with the Eagles’s play-calling this week, and he’s likely to give PJ Williams (and Saints’ fans) nightmares.
5 - What’s your prediction for this game? And what are your expectations for the rest of this Saints season?
I see this game going something like 37-31, bad guys. No offense in the least bit, but the Eagles just “need” this game more. They’re going to be playing desperate. I could see the Eagles flying all across the field, making plays, laying it all on the line. Of course, every win in the NFL is important, but I could see the Saints falling just short to a scrappy and desperate Eagles team.
That being said, that doesn’t change my predictions for the Saints season much. The Saints are Super Bowl-or-bust in 2018. It would be absolutely poetic for Drew Brees to win his first MVP of the year in his final season, win a Super Bowl (in front of the Atlanta Falcons’ faithful, no less), and ride off into the sunset.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I see the Saints making it into the playoffs, playing at least one of their games at home. Beyond that, who knows?