Halfway through the 2013 NFL season, the New Orleans Saints appeared to be well on their way to winning the NFC South, and the Philadelphia Eagles seemed destined to miss the playoffs. A few months later, Chip Kelly’s team is set to host Sean Payton’s group in the first round of the postseason.
The Eagles ended the year as one of the hottest teams in football. After Week Eight, they won every game except for one, including their Week 17 contest with the Dallas Cowboys that gave them the NFC East title. Philadelphia was dominant for much of that stretch, winning by an average of 16 points.
Philadelphia’s turnaround can be traced back to when Nick Foles was inserted into the starting lineup. He took over for an injured Michael Vick and became one of the best signal callers in the league. Foles led the NFL with a 119.2 passer rating. In 13 games, he threw for 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
With New Orleans also sporting a top quarterback, this contest could turn into a shootout. Drew Brees had another great season, finishing No.2 in the NFL in completion percentage, passing yards and passing touchdowns. Not only does he lead the second-ranked passing attack in football, but the Saints are also elite at stopping the pass. They give up just 194.1 yards per game through the air.
While the Saints may have the advantage in the passing game, no team has a better rushing attack than the Eagles. They are No.1 in rushing yards, led by LeSean McCoy and his 1,607 yards. He played especially well down the stretch averaging 130 yards per game in the last four games. McCoy will look to take advantage of a New Orleans defense that ranked 19th in run defense.
At most Las Vegas sportsbooks, the Saints are 2.5-point underdogs. New Orleans finished with a better record than Philadelphia and was favored 13 times in 2013. However, their record on the road gives the Eagles the advantage. At home, the Saints went undefeated, winning six games by at least three scores. Away from New Orleans, the team lost five times, and never won by more than one score.
New Orleans will travel to the Northeast, where cities are expected to experience freezing temperatures. Even though the Saints have trouble in the outdoors, Philadelphia’s head coach isn’t taking anything for granted. He’s well aware that traditional warm-weather teams have won in the postseason
“Tampa Bay didn't win a game in cold weather until they came in here and did it [in the 2002 NFC Championship],” Kelly said. “So we are not going to get really caught up in that one, I can tell you that.”
Betting Odds: Philadelphia -2.5, 54
Prediction: Philadelphia 31, New Orleans 27