NFL Pick: Philadelphia Eagles vs. New Orleans Saints
Philadelphia Eagles (10-7 SU, 8-9 ATS) vs. New Orleans Saints (13-3 SU, 10-6 ATS)
Date/Time: Sunday, January 13, 3:40 PM EST
Where: Superdome, New Orleans, LA
By Keith Allen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Phil +8 / NO -8
Over/Under Total: 50½
The Defending Super Bowl champion Eagles come to New Orleans this Sunday to take on this year’s favorite to hoist the Lombardi Trophy on February 3. This game is a rematch of the week 11 game in which the Saints steam-rolled the Eagles 48-7. New Orleans are 8 point favorites in this one, and the play is to lay the wood and back the Saints. Here are 3 reasons.
New Orleans is Primed for a Super Bowl Run
The Saints come into this game with the best point differential of any team, outscoring opponents by 151 points this year. Multiple teams were mentioned as super bowl front-runners at some point during the year – Patriots, Chiefs, Rams – but all of those teams had bad stretches at some point during the season to bring them back to the pack – but not the Saints. Between their week 1 upset by the Buccaneers and their week 17 loss to the Panthers by their backups, Sean Payton’s squad won 13 out of 14 games and covered the spread in 10 of those 14 contests. Drew Brees shows signs of losing the fight against father time and completed just under 75% of his passes for 32 touchdowns while throwing only 5 picks. Michael Thomas hauled in 85% of his targets on his way to 1400 yards and 9 touchdowns. The running attack has been hot and cold this year but has gotten better as the year has progressed. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram have different styles, but both are dangerous both running the ball and in the receiving game. The Saints rushed for 173 in week 11 against Eagles.
New Orleans offensive line may be the best unit in the league and will be pivotal in this game. They have only allowed 20 sacks on the year and can both maul defenders on power runs and get to the edge to block for sweeps and screen passes. Philly’s defensive success is based on their defensive front being able to stop the running game and then pressure the quarterback. Their defensive backfield is a huge liability and can’t hold up against the Saints passing attack if Brees has time go through his progressions. Injuries have decimated the Eagles’ secondary this year and the young guys are playing better, but they were exposed last week against Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears. New Orleans scored 48 against this Eagles team in week 11 and though they may not reach that lofty number this week, they will certainly light up the Superdome scoreboard.
Eagles Fairy Tale is Due to End
Nick Foles as Cinderella has been a great story. Back-up quarterback almost out of the league leads team to the big game, then takes down wicked Patriots and becomes Super Bowl MVP. Foles was mediocre early in the year as Carson Wentz’s knee was healing, but Foles has again found some magic late in the year. He delivered 3 straight wins to close out the season including a win in Los Angeles against the Rams and then went to the Windy City and led a game winning drive late in the 4th quarter to knock off the Bears. Alshon Jefferey has been Foles favorite target during the late season stretch, averaging 95 yards per game during Foles’ run. Zach Ertz is one of the best tight ends in the league and will be a big part of the game plan. The rushing attack has been a weakness all year and last week only contributed 42 yards. In the earlier trip to the Big Easy, Philly managed only 58 rushing yards. The Eagles were 28th in rushing yards for the season and they really have no identity in the running game. Darren Sproles led the team with 13 rushes last week while recent lead back Josh Adams carried the ball only once.
The Eagles hopes are all on Foles’ shoulders and he will have to come up big again for the Eagles to win. Foles will have to score more than the 16 points last week to keep up with the Brees and company. Foles made people believe in weeks 15-17, but he faced 3 pedestrian defenses in those games before coming up against the Monsters of the Midway last week. The Saints defense is not as stout as the Bears, but it is better than the Rams, Texans or Redskins that Philly faced down the stretch. The Saints were 6th in sacks and will play a lot of man to man defense. Marshon Lattimore should be able to limit Jeffery so Golden Tate or Nelson Agholor will have to step up. If the Saints get a lead, the pass rush will be unleashed in the very hostile Superdome and Foles will be in trouble. I think this is the week the fairy tale ends for St. Nick.
No Lead will be Big Enough
So even if the Saints are expected to win the game, 8 points is still a big spread to cover. Couldn’t Sean Payton turn conservative if the Saints get a lead and give the Eagles the chance at a back-door cover? I don’t think so. After the Minneapolis Miracle devastated the Saints last year in the division round, there is no way Payton lets off this gas this year. No lead is big enough when your most recent playoff memory is losing on a last second desperation play. The Saints have also publicly stated they thought they were the better team last year, and then there was some trash talking after the week 11 drubbing. The Superdome is one of the loudest venues in all of sports, and the Who Dat fans will be calling for blood. New Orleans won 8 of their 13 games by more than 8 points so covering 8 this week shouldn’t be an issue.
Ride with the Saints
Eight points is a lot to lay in the NFL, but that is the play this week in New Orleans. Bet the Saints -8.