The Philadelphia Eagles enter the Monday Night Football game as unlikely underdogs. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Saints are hoping to erase the memories of last week's drubbing at the hands of the Denver Broncos. The good news for these teams is that somebody has to win tonight. Let's take a closer look and see who might have the edge.
Before Week 9 kicked off, Las Vegas pegged the Saints as -2 favorites on the look-ahead line. Yet, after the Eagles made a mess of their game against the Falcons the line re-opened at -3.5. Since then, some money has come in on the underdog moving the line to -3 at most places. There are hints that a -2.5 could be had with a bit extra juice, but you'll have to shop around to find the best numbers.
At the start of the season this match-up appeared like a much better game than it currently is. Now we have two walking wounded scratching and clawing to salvage a nightmare season.
For the Saints, there aren't a lot of positives to build on. They have Joe Vitt back at the helm, but there's no indication that he's about to turn this ship around and make a run for a Wild Card spot. Instead, the bulk of responsibility will remain on Drew Brees shoulders. That might or might not be good news. He only had two completions on third down last week, nine incompletions, and one sack-fumble. He still ranks as one of the elite QB's in the game though, so he'll have to be at his best if they have any hope of winning.
Conversely, Mike Vick has been one of the most disappointing QB's on the season. He wasn't the turnover machine we've come to expect last week against the Falcons, but he only had one complete deep pass all game. The Eagles are averaging over one interception and over one fumble per game this year, and a lot of that falls on Vick. He currently ranks as one of the least effficient QB's in the league and the passing game has really suffered as a result.
Todd Bowles is also the new name on the block as he took over for the fired Juan Castillo. His first order of business is getting some production out of the defensive line. Instead of being one of the team's core strengths, it has become a major liability over the past month. Against the Falcons Jason Babin only saw 33 snaps. Cullen Jenkins is nursing an injury and his status remains up in the air.
Andy Reid is the coach with the bright spotlight on him though. Owner Jeff Lurie has already gone on the record to say an 8-8 season will not be enough to save his job, so this is a dark cloud not going anywhere soon.
For the Saints, Steve Spagnuolo is quite familiar with the Eagles offense, but the question is whether or not he has the personnel to do anything about it. I'm a big fan of his schemes and ability to disrupt opposing offenses, but until he can get players more suited for his system, they are going to continue to struggle on this side of the ball.
By the Numbers
It's not very often I say the Saints defense matches up well against anybody, but the Eagles offense has been atrocious this season. They have one of the best running backs in the game to go along with an impressive set of pass-catchers. Yet, Vick hasn't been able to distribute the ball effectively or get any kind of rhythm going. They've been pretty good on third down, but also well-below average in key areas such as red zone efficiency. If there was ever a game to get back on track, this would be it. New Orleans can't rush the passer, defend the run or the pass, or keep people out of the end zone.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles defense actually matches up pretty well with the Saints offense, despite what we saw last week. Bowles is running the same schemes as Castillo with the same players, but we have no idea if he is going to improve this unit or make it worse. In fact, heading into the Falcons game the Eagles D was near the top of the league vs the run, on third down, and in the red zone. Most of their problems can be attributed to play-calling in the clutch moments and a lack of production from the defensive line.
The Saints offense ranks near the very top in drive success rate, third down, and in the red zone. This is entirely thanks to Brees because their running game has been non-existent this season.
Rounding out the stats, neither team is very good on special teams and both rank near the bottom in average starting field position.
This is one mess of a game. Both teams are highly dysfunctional on both sides of the ball and it's anyone's guess as to what will happen tonight. It wasn't too long ago that both of these organizations had high levels of stability in their coaching ranks, but now neither team seems to have any at all. There are only two legitimate advantages in this match-up and both favor the Saints. Drew Brees is a much better QB than Mike Vick and the Saints have one of the best home-field advantages in the league. I'm taking a pass one this one, but if I had to I would lean towards New Orleans. Watch this game with one-eye closed because it could be ugly.