Another week of football, and another week of our Interview with the Enemy series. This week, our friend, Brandon Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation, answers 5 quick questions about our week 11 matchup, a battle in the dome pitting the New Orleans Saints against the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles.
So what’s the deal? Is it really a Super Bowl hangover? Or is there something else (or maybe a combination of something elses) that has led to a below .500 record this late in the season?
There’s plenty of blame to share for the Eagles’ struggles this season.
Doug Pederson’s offense isn’t scoring enough; Philadelphia only ranks 21st in offensive points per game. Failing to convert in the red zone has been a problem.
Meanwhile, the defense isn’t forcing enough turnovers. Jim Schwartz’s unit ranks tied for 28th with just seven takeaways in nine games played. The Eagles’ defensive stats aren’t so bad otherwise but they’ve folded in key moments.
The Eagles were always due for some natural regression after such a great 2017 season. So that’s a factor. Losing offensive coordinator Frank Reich and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo hasn’t helped matters. Injuries have played a part as well. The Eagles have lost six starters to injured reserve/non-football injury.
Even before the Eagles won the Super Bowl last season, it really just felt like their year. That same feeling certainly hasn’t been present for the 2018 campaign.
f you were Sean Payton, game planning to attack the Eagles defense, how would you do it?
Line up and snap the ball. It’s probably that simple.
As long as the Saints can avoid shooting themselves in the foot offensively, I don’t see how the Eagles defense stands much of a chance of stopping them.
Philadelphia’s secondary is vulnerable. Starting cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills, who have struggled to begin with, aren’t going to be playing in this game. This means the Eagles could be starting Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas on the outside. Jones is talented but he’s coming off a hamstring injury. Douglas is coming off a bad performance against the Cowboys where he was getting toasted with ease. If there’s an injury at corner, undrafted rookie free agent Chandon Sullivan could be forced into playing time like he was against Dallas on Sunday. Not ideal!
I imagine the Saints will look to get the ball out fast at times to negate the Eagles’ supposed defensive strength: their pass rush. Brees already has the sixth quickest time to attempt this season (2.41 seconds), per Pro Football Focus, so that shouldn’t be an issue for him.
Who is one player on both sides of the ball for the Eagles that Saints fans might not be familiar with that you expect to make an impact this week?
Offensively, the name to watch is Josh Adams. The Eagles’ undrafted rookie free agent running back has been their most productive backfield player in recent weeks. Adams is averaging 5.7 yards per carry on 27 attempts this season. The coaching staff has acknowledge they need to give Adams more opportunities. The Saints are only allowing 3.7 opponent yards per rush attempt, which ranks fifth best in the league, so I hard expect Adams to absolutely go off. But the Eagles could really use his tough-running style to help control the clock in this matchup.
Defensively, the aforementioned Sidney Jones (assuming he plays) is a name to watch. Jones was seemingly playing well for the Eagles in the slot prior to his Week 6 hamstring injury. Jones could be playing on the outside upon his potential return this week. It’s been said that the Eagles’ 2017 second-round pick could’ve been a top 10 selection if he didn’t suffer an Achilles injury at his pro day. Maybe Jones will have a breakout performance in a big spot. Not betting on it as a sure thing but at least the potential might be there.
What will this game tell you about the Eagles chances in 2018? Is this “must win” in Week 11, despite multiple divisional games still on the schedule?
I’ve honestly expected this game to be a loss ever since the schedule came out. It’s just a tough spot for the Eagles on the road. And the Saints are obviously really good. With that in mind, I don’t think a loss really tells us anything we don’t know. This Eagles team is mediocre. A win, on the other hand, would be very surprising. That would advance the Eagles to 5-5 and keep playoff hopes alive. Playoff hopes still might be alive at 4-6 given that the NFC East lacks a true juggernaut. Even if the Eagles win this game, though, they’d likely need to go 4-0 in their remaining division games.
What’s your prediction for the game? How does it play out? Final score?
I’ll say it again: the Eagles are mediocre. They’ve proven that they can’t really be trusted. This loaded Saints team should be able to handle this team with relative ease. I’ll say the Saints win by a final score of … 42 to 21.
A big thanks to Brandon for taking the time to answer our questions. Make sure you check out his work and the rest of the good folks at Bleeding Green Nation for tons of Eagles content. You can follow Brandon on Twitter @BrandonGowton, Bleeding Green Nation @BleedingGreen, and of course you can always follow me @dunnellz.