Saints vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch
Saturday’s matchup seems more and more complex the more you break it down. Two teams known for having high powered offense, but teams that are also in different stages in the NFL.
The Saints, a perennial playoff power and NFC South staple, come to town seemingly under the radar, with the dynamic duo of Sean Payton and Drew Brees still one of the most potent in all of sports.
And then there are the Eagles, from last to first, youthful, hungry, record-setting, but also inexperienced and under the yoke of high pressure from the national media and a rabid fan base.
Here are some of the top stories to look out for Saturday night (8 p.m., NBC).
Three things to watch for…
1. Baby it’s cold outside
New Orleans doesn’t like playing in cold weather. There is no way to dispute that.
The Saints’ record in away games with a starting temperature under 40 degrees is 2-6, dating back to 2006. Those two wins were against 4-12 teams too. Kickoff should be pretty frigid, with snow surrounding Lincoln Financial Field and a win chill expected to be well below 20 degrees.
But even if it were warm outside, the Saints would still have issues. The team is 3-5 away from the Superdome this year, and has lost all three away playoff games since Brees and Payton came to Louisiana.
Of course none of this means anything when the two clubs step on the field under the lights in South Philly, but the weather and home field are two distinct advantages for the Eagles in this Wild Card playoff game.
2. Kelly vs. Payton
There could be fireworks. Two revolutionary offensive coaches, jam-packed with some of the best weapons in the NFL will clash in a win-or-take home battle to head to Carolina in the Divisional round.
“I think any time your play caller and your quarterback are on the same page, that’s a bonus,” Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said of Payton and longtime quarterback Drew Brees. ” I think they have been together long enough where ‑‑ I think part of being a good play caller is making sure that you’re calling things that your quarterback is comfortable with and I think Sean has got a really good understanding of what Drew wants to do.”
But it seems like Kelly and quarterback Nick Foles have similarly gotten into synch, as Foles led the league in quaterback rating, and has the best touchdown to interception ration ever recorded.
The Eagles average 160.4 rushing yards per game and are second in total offense (behind the Broncos). They are also fourth in total scoring.
The Saints sport a better than average defense, but they struggle against the run, ranking 19th in that category. Good news for LeSean McCoy, the Eagles’ first rushing champion.
“I think LeSean understands what talents he’s been given,” Kelly told reporters, “and you know, if you don’t use them and don’t really work on the craft, then you’re wasting them.”
3. Inexperienced offense
The Saints have won a Super Bowl. The Eagles have not. But most of this young Eagles’ squad hasn’t even played in a playoff game.
Kelly obviously hasn’t coached one yet, this being his first year in the NFL, but the anchors of the Eagles’ high-powered offense have very little points of reference as the second season begins.
The three most experienced members of the Eagles’ attack are LeSean McCoy, Desean Jackson and Brent Celek, but that doesn’t really say much. McCoy has had 17 postseason carries in two games, Jackson 16 receptions over five games and Celek, the most experienced perhaps, has 24 catches in five games.
The rest of the offense, save for a few offensive linemen like Jason Peters, are experiencing the playoffs for the first time.
Follow Metro Philadelphia Sports Editor Evan Macy on Twitter @Evan_Macy.