New Orleans Saints @ Philadelphia Eagles: Game Preview

The season really starts for the Saints this Sunday when they face their first true test against the Eagles in Philadelphia. Don't underestimate the importance of this game, for I expect a lot of the questions we've had about the Saints, particularly the defense, to finally be answered. 

Below are a few of my keys to the game or just random points worth mentioning. They are all meant to facilitate discussion so feel free to comment about anything. Following that is this weeks game capsule. 


Garcia or Kolb?

Ahh, the million dollar question. Who will the Saints defense be facing on the other side of the ball when the game kicks off this Sunday? The Eagles have yet to decide. On one hand, Kolb is the heir to the thrown. He has been practicing with the team since the start of training camp this season and has been groomed to replace McNabb for thee years now. However, Jeff Garcia is the guy who led them through the playoffs in 2006 and should already be familiar with most of the playbook. It's been a while for Garcia though and it might be much to expect him to start immediately. Regardless, the Saints are better off with either two than starting quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Taking Advantage

To make the most of the Eagles' backup quarterback situation and banged up offensive line, Gregg Williams and the defense need to get in (insert quarterback name here)'s face. I'm still waiting for Will Smith, and more importantly Charles Grant, to show me why the possibility of not being suspended all year is a good thing for the Saints. I'll admit that after rewatching the Detroit game I wasn't giving the defensive line enough credit. but it still wasn't enough for my taste. Hurrying the quarterback is one thing; putting his face two feet into the ground is that much better. The Saints secondary has done a pretty solid job so far but more help from the front four could do wonders. 

 

Keep Ringing, Mike Bell

We haven't heard anything about Pierre's knee yet this week and I personally believe no news is bad news. Even if he does return, Mike Bell is the hot back and it would probably be wise to ride this train as far as it will take the Saints. Hell, let's keep Pierre in our back pocket for a while and bust him out at the end of October as the wear and tear of the NFL season has weakened and tired opposing defenses.

The question is how long can Bell carry the load. Following Sunday's game against the Lions, Bell admitted it was the most touches he'd had since high school. But this is the NFL, kid. Will he be able to continue at the same pace we've become accustomed? 

 

Shut Down Westbrook

Westbrook is one of the most talented, versatile running backs in the league. The Saints did a great job shutting down the run against Detroit and have been able to shut down the best of them (see: Adrian Peterson) in the past. Frustrating the Eagles ground attack and forcing them to go to the air with whoever they decide will be under center will help the Saints chances of coming home with a "W." 


Cleanup on Aisle Special Teams

Definitely the area that needs most improvement from the Lions game. Sloppy tackling, muffed punts, blocked field goals; all of it needs to be cleaned up. I'm sure it will be emphasized this week during practice so I expect to see better.

 

 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (1-0) AT PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (1-0)

SERIES

 

SAINTS

EAGLES

SERIES LEADER

15-9

STREAKS

6 of past 7

COACHES VS. OPP.

Payton: 2-1

Reid: 3-2

LAST WEEK

W 45-27 vs. Lions

W 38-10 at Panthers

LAST GAME

12/23/07: Eagles 38 at Saints 23.  Five TDs are scored in 1st quarter & Philadelphia QB Donovan McNabb throws 3 TDs to all but eliminate New Orleans from playoff contention.

LAST GAME AT SITE

11/23/03: Eagles 33, Saints 20.  McNabb throws for 259 yards & Eagles rush for 3 TDs to overcome Saints RB Deuce McAllister's 232 total yards & 2 TDs.

BROADCAST

FOX (1:00 PM ET): Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver (Field reporter).  SIRIUS: 153 (NO), 125 (Phi.).  XM: 102 (Phi.). 

 

STATS

PASSING

Brees: 26-34-358 (1C)-6 (1L)-1-137.0 (2L)

McNabb: 10-18-79-2-1-80.6 OR

Kolb: 7-11-23-0-0-67.6

RUSHING

Bell: 28-143 (2L)-5.1-0

Westbrook: 13-64-4.9-0

RECEIVING

Henderson: 5-103-20.6-1 (T3C)

Celek (TE): 6-37-6.2-1 (T3C)

OFFENSE

515.0 (1L)

267.0

TAKE/GIVE

0

+5 (1L)

DEFENSE

231.0

169.0 (1L)

SACKS

Vilma: 1

Howard: 2 (T1L)

INTs

Sharper: 2 (T1L)

S. Brown: 2 (T1L)

PUNTING

Morstead (R): 48.0

Rocca: 42.8

KICKING

Carney: 9 (6/6 PAT; 1/2 FG)

Akers: 8 (5/5 PAT; 1/2 FG)

 

NOTES

SAINTS Defeated Phi. in 2006 Divisional Playoff 27-24...QB DREW BREES became 1st player in NFL history to throw 6 TDs on Kickoff Weekend.  Set career high & tied franchise record.  Since joining NO in 2006, has 14,268 passing yards & 94 TDs, most in NFL.  In past 7 games, Brees has 22 TDs.  Aims for 8th in row with 2+ TD passes.  In past 21, Brees has 14 300-yard games.  Averaging 317.8 yards per game over that span...RB-PR REGGIE BUSH has 24 career TDs (12 rush, 8 rec, 4 PR) & is only player in team history to score via rush, rec. & PR.  In Div. Playoff, Bush had rush TD.  RB PIERRE THOMAS aims for 7th game in row with TD...WR MARQUES COLSTON has 5 TDs in past 4.  WR LANCE MOORE has 8 TDs in past 10.  TE JEREMY SHOCKEY had 2 TDs last week.  Has 425 receptions since 2002, 3rd most in NFL among TEs.  WR DEVERY HENDERSON had 103 yards (20.6 avg.) & 58-yard TD last week...DT SEDRICK ELLIS aims for 3rd consecutive road game with sack...

EAGLES QB DONOVAN MC NABB has 196 pass TDs & 27 rush TDs.  Needs 4 pass TDs to become 8th player in NFL history with 200+ pass TDs & 25+ rush TDs.  Is 3-1 (.750) in career vs. NO & has 8 TDs vs. 1 INT for 106.6 passer rating.  In his starts (min. 10+ att.) with 100+ rating (incl. playoffs), team is 40-1 (.976)...RB BRIAN WESTBROOK is only player since 2004 with 4,000+ rush (4,979) & 3,000+ rec. (3,199) yards.  Is only active player with 20+ rush (36) & rec. (29) TDs...WR-PR DE SEAN JACKSON had career-long 85-yard PR-TD last week...DE TRENT COLE had sack last week & has 24 sacks in past 37 games (incl. playoffs).  Since 2005, CB ASANTE SAMUEL leads NFL with 24 INTs.  When Samuel has INT, his teams are 21-1 (.955).  CB SHELDON BROWN has 16 INTs & 13 have led to scoring drives (2 INT-TDs).  Had 2 INTs last week as team had 5 INTs, most since 1996.  DE VICTOR ABIAMIRI scored on FR-TD vs. Car.  DE DARREN HOWARD recorded 2 sacks last week.

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