Two of the NFL’s most potent offenses collide as the Philadelphia Eagles host the New Orleans Saints in Saturday’s NFC wild card matchup at Lincoln Financial Field.
Philadelphia needed a late interception with less than two minutes to capture the NFC East title from Dallas last week, while New Orleans plummeted to the wild card round with key road losses to Seattle, St. Louis, and Carolina after seeming like a lock for a first-round bye and the NFC South crown.
Even with their late season struggles the Saints still finished the year with the fourth best offense in the league (399.4 yards, 25.9 ppg), and Philadelphia was second overall (417.3 yards, 27.6 ppg).
The Eagles (10-6) are making their first playoff appearance since 2010 under new head coach Chip Kelly, who helped improve a team that was 4-12 and last place in the division last season.
After making three straight appearances, New Orleans (10-6) missed last year’s postseason with head coach Sean Payton suspended due to Bounty Gate.
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Saints quarterback Drew Brees put together another incredible year with 39 passing touchdowns and 5,162 yards, but his work on the road this season curtailed New Orleans late. He threw four uncharacteristic interceptions in the Carolina and St. Louis losses, and completed 64 percent of his passes for 12 touchdowns to nine interceptions, along with an 84.8 passer rating on the road this season.
A fact that likely hasn’t escaped Brees and the Saints is the quarterback’s playoff record. In eight playoff starts he’s gone 4-0 at home, 0-3 on the road, and 1-0 at a neutral stadium.
Brees appeared to find his midseason form in last week’s regular season finale against Tampa Bay, tossing four touchdowns and running for another in the 42-17 victory. He’ll take on Philadelphia’s last place pass defense letting up 289.8 yards per game, but also responsible for 19 interceptions.
The New Orleans defense, which finished fourth in total yards allowed, has continued to struggle against the run all season allowing 111 yards per game, and takes on the Eagles top-ranked rushing attack.
NFL leading rusher LeSean McCoy punished opposing defenses for 1,607 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging a 5.1 yards per carry, and chipped in 52 receptions for 539 yards and two scores.
Just ahead of McCoy is quarterback Nick Foles, who took over for Michael Vick to become the NFL’s top rated passer with 27 touchdowns to two interceptions this season. The NFL’s ninth leading receiving DeSean Jackson was on the other end of most of Foles pinpoint passes, amassing 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns.
Foles and Jackson will try to pick apart a Saints secondary ranked No. 2 in the NFL with 194.1 passing yards allowed per game, and the fourth best pass rush in league with Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette’s recording 24.5 of the team’s 49.0 total sacks.
The Saints should be at nearly full strength with just safety Rafael Bush and running back Pierre Thomas held out of Wednesday’s practice with ankle and chest injuries, respectively. The team’s top rusher with 549 yards and two touchdowns, Thomas has been more effective out of the back field with 77 catches for 513 yards and two scores.
Philadelphia could miss center Julian Vandervelde for a second straight game with a back injury. According to the Eagles official site, Vandervelde did not practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
Betting Odds: Philadelphia -3
Over/Under: 54 points
Time: Saturday, 8:10 p.m. ET
Prediction: New Orleans 34, Philadelphia 27