2014 NFL Playoffs: 5 Biggest Matchups For Philadelphia Eagles vs. New Orleans Saints
5 Biggest Matchups for Eagles vs. Saints
The kicker who once had the longest field goal in the history of the NFL , Tom Dempsey, also kicked for the Eagles. Saints coach Sean Payton was once an assistant coach with the Eagles. Both teams’ current quarterbacks, Nick Foles and Drew Brees, went to the same high school in Texas (Westlake). Hollis Thomas, a former Eagles’ defensive tackle who now has a sports’ talk radio show in Philadelphia, once played the same position for the Saints.
Still, the only history that matters for fans of both teams is a future chapter that will be added to this history book on Saturday night (8:10 p.m., ET, NBC-TV) when the teams play at Lincoln Financial Field. Despite the fact that the Saints (11-5) have a better record than the Eagles (10-6), the Eagles have home-field advantage due to a No. 3 seed that comes with clinching the NFC East title. The Saints are a No. 6 seed but have played better than a No. 6 seed all season.
Really, the only head-scratching loss for the Saints was a 26-20 loss to the New York Jets on the road, but the Saints have not done well away from home with a 3-5 record. The Eagles, on the other hand, have restored a home-field advantage to Lincoln Financial Field, having won their last four after enduring a 10-game losing streak.
Something has got to give on Saturday night, and the breaking point will likely be determined by these five key matchups.
5. Junior Galette vs. Eagles' Offensive Line
It will be a homecoming of sorts for defensive end Junior Galette, who made some outstanding defensive plays for Philadelphia-based Temple University before being asked to leave by then head coach Al Golden due to a discipline issue. Galette has 10 sacks this season and is one of the Pro Bowl’s biggest snubs. The Eagles’ offensive line had difficulty keeping the Dallas Cowboys' pass rush away from Nick Foles, and Dallas had the No. 32-ranked pass rush in the league. If Galette becomes a regular in the Eagles’ backfield, expect a lot of the quick timing patterns Chip Kelly specializes in to be disrupted. Galette has the edge.
4. LeSean McCoy vs. Saints' Defensive Line
LeSean "Shady" McCoy is the Eagles’ all-time single-season leader in both rushing and all-purpose yards, having broken records established by Wilbert Montgomery and Brian Westbrook. The Saints, while having an excellent pass rush, are ranked No. 26 against the run. The Eagles are the No. 1 rushing offense in the NFL. Give a big edge to the Eagles.
3. Sean Payton vs. Chip Kelly
Both Saints head coach Sean Payton and Eagles head coach Chip Kelly have a reputation as gamblers as Payton’s onside kick helped win a Super Bowl and Kelly went for a QB sneak at the goal line on 4th-and-1 at Dallas. That didn’t work, but expect the unexpected. Kelly will have to figure out creative ways to keep the Saints’ pass rush off quarterback Nick Foles. Look for the fake screen pass to McCoy and a quick toss to the other side to tight end Brent Celek as a potion. Until Kelly wins a Super Bowl, though, Payton has the edge.
2. Saints' Road vs. Eagles' Home
The Saints are 3-5 on the road this season, including three December losses. There is no discernible reason for that other than the dome team being uncomfortable in the elements. The Eagles, on the other hand, have won four-straight home games, including a blowout of the Detroit Lions during a snowstorm. Saturday’s forecast high in Philadelphia is 23 degrees with temperature at kickoff in the teens. The Eagles have a big advantage here.
1. Westlake's Foles vs. Westlake's Brees
Both Westlake High (Texas) quarterbacks, Nick Foles and Drew Brees, are among the highest-rated passers in the league. Brees has the experience of playing in big games, but Foles has the higher-passing rating this season and his team averages more yards per completion (8.09) than any other team in the NFL. The Saints are fifth (7.5) in the same category. Brees’ big-game experience gives him the edge.