What We Learned - In the First Half  

Pepsi  

Wild Card Weekend preview: Saints-Eagles

The NFL regular season is history, and now it's time for teams to enter the playoff fray for Wild Card Weekend, with trips to Divisional Round Weekend on the line. Let's take a closer look at all four games.

New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles, Saturday, 8:10 p.m. ET, NBC


The backstory


Playoff schedule
The first two rounds of the NFL's postseason schedule for the 2013 season were released Sunday night. More ...

The Eagles have one loss since Halloween thanks in large part to a second-ranked offense that has taken off in the second half. Nick Foles replaced Michael Vick in the starting lineup and quickly emerged as one of the most productive quarterbacks in football. The Saints can handle their own business on offense, of course. New Orleans finished fourth in total yards and are led by Drew Brees, a January-tested surgeon. Can the Saints keep pace in a potential shootout? This was a mediocre team outside the Superdome in 2013.

Under pressure


Rob Ryan, defensive coordinator, Saints: Rob Ryan has received plenty of credit, justifiably so, for turning the Saints' defense into a respectable unit after a historically poor 2012. Saturday night will represent the biggest challenge of his career. Foles has developed great chemistry with DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper, while LeSean McCoy would be getting MVP buzz if Peyton Manning worked as a math teacher somewhere. Ryan knows the Saints' offense isn't nearly as explosive on the road. That puts the pressure on Ryan to outsmart Chip Kelly. No small task.

Matchup to watch


Saints TE Jimmy Graham vs. Eagles defense: Graham presents a major issue for the Eagles. Graham has been slowed by a foot issue since October, but still managed to dunk footballs over goal posts on a near weekly basis. The Eagles have struggled to contain opposing tight ends this season and do not have a natural in-house fit to cover Graham. Mychal Kendricks is Philadelphia's most athletic linebacker, but he'd give up seven inches to the 6-foot-7 tight end.

Mindblowing stats


The Eagles are the first team in NFL history to have a QB with a 100-plus passer rating (Nick Foles, 119.2), a 1,600-plus-yard rusher (LeSean McCoy, 1,607), and a 1,300-plus yard receiver (DeSean Jackson, 1,332). ... Both Nick Foles and Drew Brees went to Westlake High School in Austin, Texas. Brees (1993-96) led the Chaparrals to a 16-0 record and a state championship in 1996, finishing his career 28-0-1 as the starter. Foles (2003-06) broke Brees' career records for passing yards and passing TDs, and led Westlake to the 2006 state title game, where the Chaparrals lost to Southlake Carroll.

Prediction


We'd love a 48-45 shootout, but there's too much evidence the Saints' chance at a deep playoff run evaporated when the Panthers stole the NFC South -- and the all-important home-field advantage that came with it. There are teams in the NFC playoff field with the ability to slow Chip Kelly's attack. We're not convinced the Saints are one of them.

Philadelphia Eagles 38, New Orleans Saints 24

Fan Discussion

NFL News
CONTENT
15