Our “Interview with the Enemy” series over at Bleeding Green Nation went over about as well as you would expect. (You can read that here.) In order to keep the banter going, today we’re back with three reasons why each team might lose. As each writer, both myself and the Eagles writer, picked our respective teams to win the game, this was a chance to view it from the opposite perspective.
So, below are three reasons why the Eagles could lose, as written by Bleeding Green Nation’s Brandon Gowton. To see why I think the Saints could lose, check out Bleeding Green Nation.
Bad Foles shows up
Reigning Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles has obviously proven that he can play at a very high level, especially in the playoffs. But that hardly means he’s incapable of having bad games. He’s been a high variance player over the course of his career:
Foles is, and always has been, a high variance QB. Consider this: in 2018, the avg QB rate in the NFL was 94.12. In 28 of the 52 games in which Foles has attempted at least 10 passes, his passer rating was below average. That's 54% of his games. /2— Patrick (@pmc1423) January 10, 2019
Foles only finished last week’s game in Chicago with a 77.7 passer rating. He threw two interceptions in scoring territory. One of those picks was on a play where he inexplicably threw into quadruple coverage. Foles won’t be able to get away with making those mistakes in New Orleans.
Betting against Foles recently hasn’t worked out so well for his doubters. But I can’t totally ignore the games I’ve watched over his career where he back pedaled into oblivion and left easy throws on the field. Given how well he’s played recently, I’m hardly guaranteeing Foles will be bad on Sunday. I just think there’s always a possibility that Bad Foles could show up.
Even if Average Foles shows up, that might not be good enough to match the Saints’ scoring. The Eagles really need him to be BDN level on Sunday.
The defense gets torched … again
In Week 11, the Eagles allowed 48 points and 546 total yards of offense. Ouch.
Philly’s defense has settled since then, but they also haven’t played an offense that’s quite as good as the Saints’ home offense.
The Saints are a tough matchup for a Jim Schwartz defense that relies so much upon generating pressure with their front four. Drew Brees’ ability to get the ball out quick (fifth fastest release time in the league) can negate the Eagles’ rush.
New Orleans then has the skill players to exploit some weaknesses in the secondary. Michael Thomas straight up ran past Rasul Douglas for a score in Week 11. The Eagles had no real answer for Tre’Quan Smith. Alvin Kamara could easily do more damage in the passing attack.
Eagles rookie corner Avonte Maddox has had some real impressive moments since starting on the outside in Week 15. He actually ranks first in PFF’s yards allowed per coverage snap metric. But as we saw in Chicago, Maddox is still prone to making rookie mistakes. His aggressive mentality caused him to bite on double moves, which allowed the Bears to move the ball down the field with some chunk plays. I’m sure the Saints saw that and will be looking to test Maddox in coverage.
The Eagles’ defense won’t be able to stop the Saints from moving the ball. We all know that’s going to happen. Philly must come up with some takeaways in this one to have a chance. And given how well the Saints protect the ball (second fewest giveaways), the Eagles might not have a lot of opportunities for extra possessions.
Dome field advantage
The Saints are 6-0 in their last six playoff games at the Superdome. They haven’t lost a home playoff game since Rich Kotite’s Eagles beat them in January 1993.
Drew Brees has started for the Saints’ last five home postseason games. His combined stats: 116/171 (67.8%), 1529 yards (8.9 average), 12 TD, 1 INT, 116.8 passer rating. Seems pretty good to me. And that doesn’t account for how dominant he’s been at home THIS season with 21 touchdowns to just one interception and a 133.3 passer rating. My goodness.
The Eagles absolutely need to bring their A-game to beat the Saints. And that’s going to be even tougher to do on the road in a loud, hostile environment. Philly already experienced how struggles can begin snowball down there in Week 11. The Eagles must turn in a historic effort to beat the Saints.