Despite the Saints being locked in at the No.6 spot, many lower seeded teams in recent years have had great postseason success. There is no excuse for them to face defeat against the Philadelphia Eagles. Everyone talks of how the Saints can't win on the road in a cold weather environment. Well guess what, it won't matter come Saturday, here's why.
1. Understand how Saints lost in previous Postseasons
During the beginning of the Sean Payton/Drew Brees era in the 2006 playoffs, in the NFC Championship game against the Bears, the Saints never established any sort of a run game. Brees thew the ball 49 times as opposed to 12 rushing attempts from Reggie, Deuce McAllister and others. The week before that in the divisional game versus the Eagles they RAN MORE THAN THEY THREW!!! A 37 to 32 run to pass ratio. Now look back to the 2009 playoffs where the Saints won it all. They had the 5th best rushing attack in the league. Sean Payton knows the importance of implementing the run and has never overlooked that aspect.
With this in mind, here are three huge factors to consider in the Saint's last two playoff defeats. 1) 2010 vs. Seattle: Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas DNP. 2011 vs SF: Mark Ingram DNP and PT was a non factor as he suffered an early concussion. 2) 2010 vs. Seattle: Brees had 60 pass attempts. 2011 vs. SF: Brees had 63 pass attempts. 3) Brees accounted for 862 yards, 6 touchdowns and only 2 turnovers combined. BREES WAS GREAT in both contests and we STILL LOST each one. The point being is it won't matter how amazing his numbers are against the Eagles unless he gets help in the backfield, which all of Who Dat Nation should believe he will.
2. Why the Saints will rectify it this Postseason
Two words, Mark Ingram. He should be a major factor on Saturday night. Despite his early career struggles, he has actually been very effective in limited action this year. Once his nagging foot injuries were healed, he has shown he deserves more touches. Since week 8 versus the Jets, Ingram is averaging 5.8 yards a carry. The issue is if Payton will let him carry a heavier load in the playoffs. If so Saints fans should feel good because in both games that Ingram received double digit carries this year, he ran for a combined 228 yards at 8.4 per rush. He also takes great care of the ball, as he has fumbled only once through the first 358 carries of his NFL career. It's time for this former Heisman winner and first round pick to have the game of his life and it could not come any sooner for Saints fans than Saturday night against the Philly D.
3. If they Protect him, he will Shred them
Every quarterback needs pass protection to have success. In many of the Saints' losses this year, Brees has been under constant pressure and enable to get the offense into a rhythm. When given time to throw, Drew usually puts up the numbers and more importantly, limits the turnovers. But it will benefit the Saints even more in a game where they face a putrid Philly pass defense that ranked LAST in the NFL. Therefore if given at least decent protection from the offensive line, he should absolutely take apart the Eagles secondary. This will also result in fewer turnovers from Drew, as he won't have to always worry about pressure in his face and can keep his eyes down field. Keep in mind, that arguably the best pass rushers this year in Robert Quinn and Greg Hardy, along with two of the strongest front 7's from the Seahawks and Jets are all who and what the Eagles do not have.
4. Rob Ryan will slow down Chip Kelly's Offense
Due to his former job as defensive coordinator of "America's Team", charismatic behavior and distinctive look, Rob Ryan is widely known by many fans across the NFL. But people outside of New Orleans should realize that he is one of the best defensive coordinators in the league. For starters the Dallas Cowboy defense this year was the worst in football in terms of yardage, giving up an atrocious 415 YPG. As their former coordinator in 2011 and 2012, Dallas was a very respectable defense as they ranked 14th in total yardage both years. In New Orleans, Ryan has done a tremendous job turning around the absolute worst defense in NFL history (again in yardage). The Saints now rank as an elite unit in 2013. They are 2nd in the league in Pass D at 194 YPG against.
Now consider the defenses Eagles quarterback Nick Foles has faced. In his 11 games of noteworthy playing time, Foles has faced only one top 10 pass D. This was the lowly 0-4 NY Giants who held him to under 200 passing yards. Another big reason to praise Rob Ryan is b/c of the breakout seasons from the dynamic pass rush duo in DE Cameron Jordan and OLB Junior Galette. They each have at least a dozen sacks and are extremely difficult to account for when they pin their ears back on passing downs, especially for a suspect pass protecting Philadelphia O-line coming off a five sack barrage from that aforementioned Dallas Cowboy defense. Don't consider that a fluke though, the last time Foles and the Philly O-Line faced a fearsome pass rush was against the Detroit Lions. In that game, Foles came back down to earth as he committed 2 turnovers, completed only half his passes and threw for under 180 yards. This will be strength vs. strength, except the Saints D has faced more tough foes than Foles.
As explosive and unconventional as the Eagle's offense is, Rob Ryan is extremely innovative in creating a game plan with many different personal groupings and play calls. Saints fans should feel confident in him and the Black and Gold D into holding Foles, McCoy and co. to under 25 points.
5. Inexperience vs. Experience
Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, Nick Foles and even defensive coordinator Billy Davis have done a great job turning around a last place team from a year ago into 2013 NFC East champions. Despite their success, all of these key pieces to Philly are in their first year and have no NFL playoff experience at their current positions. Sean Payton, Drew Brees and Rob Ryan are all former postseason participants. Preparation and Game planing are the two most important aspects in terms of determining who has the best chance to win a playoff game outside of on field talent and execution. There is no better coach/QB duo in the league than Payton and Brees. Underestimating experience is a mistake, and the Saints have a clear advantage over the Eagles in this facet of their match up.