FanPost

The Numbers Say;

Statistically speaking, the Saints have a favorable match-up on the road in Philly this weekend for their first playoff game. I know, I know, "on the road" and "outdoors". Believe me, I know the Saints don’t appear to be the same team away from the Dome, but hear me out. N.O. finished the regular season with the 4th ranked offense in total yards; pair that against the 29th ranked Philly defense (in that category) and big advantage to N.O. Conversely, Philly finished with the 2nd ranked offense in total yards; pair that against the 4th ranked N.O. defense (in that category), I feel N.O. stills has the advantage because they are the 4th best defense in the league so very capable of slowing down that offense. Obviously Philly can move the ball well on offense. They take a 9th ranked passing attack and number 1 ranked rushing attack against a 2nd rank passing defense and 19th ranked rushing defense of N.O. Based on those numbers, I believe N.O. can certainly limit Philly’s passing game but don’t fare well against RB LeSean McCoy and Philly’s run game. It will be crucial that N.O. limits McCoy’s production and controls their ground game. What does favor N.O.s defensive matchup against Philly’s offense is QB pressure. Although QB Nick Foles (ranked 1st in QB rating) has looked very impressive since taking over for Mike Vick mid season, Philly’s offense has allowed the 8th most sacks in the NFL. Pair that against the sack happy Saints (ranked 4th in that category) and Foles will be under pressure all game. It will be crucial for Jordan (12.5 sacks), Gallette (12 sacks), and the rest of the crew to rattle Foles into rushing his throws and making mistakes. Philly doesn’t turn the ball over much (4th fewest) and N.O. doesn’t take the ball away much (29th ranked) but they must find some way to force the fairly inexperienced Foles into making mistakes and that starts with adequate pass rush which the Saints have shown to be more than capable of producing. If we can get after Philly on 1st and second downs forcing them into 3rd and 5 plus yardage situations, I believe N.O. holds the advantage. Philly’s offense is ranked 24th in 3rd down conversion percentage while N.O.s defense ranks an impressive 9th in that category. Getting and keeping Philly’s offense off of the field will be a huge asset in the outcome of this game. N.O.s offense ranks an impressive 3rd in time of possession while Philly ranks dead last. Of course, if Philly capitalizes in offensive possessions with quick scoring drives, time of possession has no importance. The Saints offense can move the ball practically equally as well as Philly can based on ranking (stats). On the road in the cold, it will be big time important to be able to move the ball on the ground which is an area N.O. has struggled in at times (25th ranked rushing attack). Philly is also very good at stopping the run with a 10th ranked rushing defense. N.O.s stable of good running backs must produce and Sean Payton must dial up some productive play calls to help them do so. On the flip side, N.O. boast a passing attack ranked 2nd in the league. Put that up against a Philly defense ranked dead last in the league against the pass and Brees and company could have a productive outing in this one. Of course that can’t happen if Brees is not given adequate time in the pocket. For an O-line that currently contains a pro bowl guard tandem in Grubbs and Evans, the line as a whole has appeared to have struggled in protecting Brees all year long. Though the Saints rank at a surprisingly good 9th fewest sacks allowed this season, those sacks allowed have come at crucial and some may say "game altering" times. I firmly believe that Brees’s quick decision making and quick release, along with great pocket awareness has contributed to that surprising ranking and prevented that sack total from being much higher. It will be of the utmost importance for the O-line to manage to limit pressure on Brees. Philly’s defense is ranked 20th in the league in sacks obtained so that task should be achievable. N.O.’s offense is also very good on 3rd down. They rank 3rd in the league in 3rd down conversion percentage. Philly’s defense ranks 24th in the league in that category so as long as the Saints can get positive yardage on 1st and 2nd downs, sustaining drives on offense and converting 3rd down situations should be a goal that is certainly obtainable. With both offenses capable of moving the ball well and putting up points (Philly ranked 4th in points scored @27.6 per game and N.O. ranked 10th @ 25.9 per game), it will be crucial that N.O. turns red zone opportunities into 7 and not 3 and holds Philly to field goals and not touchdowns. N.O.s defense ranks 4th in the league in points allowed @19 per game and Philly ranks 17th @23.9 per game so defensively N.O. holds the advantage in that area. So, as I said, statistically speaking, I find the Saints’ matchup against the Eagles slightly favorable despite what most analysts think. I believe those analysts’ opinions are heavily swayed based on the fact that N.O. has never won a road playoff game and have struggled on the road this year especially in less than ideal weather conditions. The forecast in Philly Saturday evening calls for temperatures at or below freezing but the winds are not projected to be more than 10 mph and snow is not anticipated. I believe that against this Eagles team, the Saints can compete and function at the level they are accustomed to even in a freezing outdoor venue. Of course, all the stats and rankings in the world don’t mean, in the words of good ol’ Coach Mora, "diddly poo" if our boys don’t show up ready to fight. They have to bring it and they have to want it because in the Post Season, it’s loose and go home. T.Crochet "Amateur Saints Analyst"

This FanPost was written by a reader and member of Canal Street Chronicles. It does not necessarily reflect the views of CSC and its staff or editors.

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