As Chip Kelly gets his Philadelphia Eagles prepared for their playoff showdown with the Saints, let’s take a quick look at what the “meat and potatoes” of this game should be. Each team’s main strength is in an area that the other is weak against…
LeSean McCoy and the Eagles’ run-game vs. the Saints rush defense
As a team, the Eagles are No. 1 in the NFL in rushing the football. They average 5.1 yards per carry, 160.4 yards per game and have scored 19 rushing TDs on the season. McCoy leads the way, but they’ve also gotten good contributions from Bryce Brown, Chris Polk and yes, even Nick Foles.
Sometimes it seems the Eagles do pass a lot, but make no mistake, the run-game is their bread and butter.
Rob Ryan has improved the Saints’ defense overall, but they do have a weakness against the run that can be exposed. They’re ranked 19th versus the run in giving up an average of 111.6 yards per game but are also ranked just 28th in allowing 4.6 yards per carry.
The Saints’ defense hasn’t given up 100-yard games to very many individual rushers (Chris Ivory and Zac Stacy), but that likely has more to do with teams having to play catch-up against the potent Saints offense.
Their run defense isn’t horrible, but this is the area to attack relentlessly if I’m the Eagles offense.
Drew Brees and the Saints’ passing game vs. the Eagles pass defense
New Orleans boasts the second-ranked passing game in the NFL and average 307 yards and 2.4 TDs per game through the air.
When Brees has time in the pocket, he can pick apart any defense in the NFL. He has a good arsenal of weapons to choose from led by Graham, Colston, Moore, Stills and Sproles.
The Eagles’ pass defense ended the season ranked dead last in the NFL in giving up an average of 290 yards per game. However, they rank in the middle of the league in regards to yards per attempt, completion percentage and passing TDs allowed.
What goes hand-in-hand with pass defense is pressure on the QB. The Eagles’ pass-rush is inconsistent and they rank 20th in the league with just 37 sacks on the season.
The Eagles’ strength can help neutralize the Saints’ strength in this game. Run the ball, control the tempo and try to limit the amount of times Brees has the ball.
If the Eagles have to pass, and you know they will, that will be a strength vs. strength matchup. The Saints’ defense is pretty good at defending the pass and getting pressure on the quarterback, but the Eagles have some pretty good weapons in the pass game as well.
On the flip side, the Saints don’t run the ball very well so they don’t match up too well against the strength of the Eagles’ defense. Expect a lot of passing from Brees and company.
Overall, these two teams match-up very well against each other. It should make for another high-drama game that could come down to whomever has the ball last.