I have seen both of these teams at their best, and when they are on their game it is some of the most beautiful football that can be played. In theory, this game should be very high scoring, filled with big plays, and should please anybody who likes a good ol’ shootout but as we all know it is very rare that two teams meet and play their best ball together. If there were ever a game where that would be the case I would bet money that this is it. Both teams have their backs against the wall. For the Saints, their season is essentially done with a loss at home against the Eagles. I expect them to rally behind a home crowd that is sure to be in full throat on Monday night. New Orleans fans certainly don’t want to see the Saints season collapse before their very eyes in New Orleans. As for the Eagles, their dilemma has been well documented. Owner Jeffrey Lurie made it clear that another 8-8 season will not cut it. Everybody knows that both Andy Reid and Michael Vick are fighting for their jobs. When many people thought the team would gel coming out of their BYE week, they failed to live up to expectations. Will Monday night be the game where it all finally comes together?
Let me start off by saying that this is the game I am most looking forward to seeing this week. It literally has everything: a load of offensive talent, two teams that will be fighting like it is a playoff game, and a rabid crowd during prime time. What else could a fan want? While Philadelphia may not be in must-win mode yet, I can assure you that New Orleans is after their disappointing loss in Denver. They will also be without their electric return man in Darren Sproles, after he underwent surgery on his hand this week. The first guy who I would think that the Saints would replace Sproles with in the return game, Courtney Roby, will also be out this week. The Eagles can breathe a sigh of relief since kick coverage is something that the team has struggled mightily with this season. Jimmy Graham looks like he could be returning to his top form and could be utilized a lot in this game. The Saints have only won one game at home this season and it was also in prime time. Performance during prime time games have been a strength lately for the Eagles. Since 2009 they are 10-5 in night games but that is not why I am picking them.
I like the Eagles in this game IF they can get the ball to LeSean McCoy. He should get at least 25 touches in this game if Philadelphia wants to win. He should find some holes to run through if he does get going since the Saints are 31st in stopping the rush. Dual threat Michael Vick has talked about possibly reverting back to his old self. This week he said that he has to get his swag back. Perhaps a nice game on the ground for him will help bolster his confidence. Above all else he will need to finish another game without a turnover before Eagles fans will get off his case. I thought Vick did a nice job against Atlanta (who is fourth in the NFL in takeaways). He did not cough the ball up at all in that game. Andy Reid has done his best to try and turn Michael into more of a pocket passer, and Vick is getting hit like he has never been hit before. Andy will probably be just as happy with Vick scrambling around as long as he is not making critical mistakes with the ball. If the Eagles can win this game without turning the ball over, I think that will go a long way for them.
The last thing I wanted to hit on was the play of both defenses. The Saints have not looked like a NFL defense very much this year. I don’t mean to be harsh but teams are scoring points at will on them. Unless the Eagles are engaging in some type of experiment where they see if they can win a game without scoring any more points than they absolutely need to, then I think they will be able to light up the scoreboard. As for the Eagles’ D, they were harassed by Matt Ryan last week. Todd Bowles did not make the greatest impression in his debut. It was not his fault. I saw the same problems from the Philly defense that I have seen since 2009- bad tackling and poor execution. Matt Ryan did see some guys wide open in Philadelphia but the tackles were not being made by the first guy in a lot of instances in that game. The press coverage has looked good so far, but all eleven guys need to make sure that they stop a play where it should be stopped. Drew Brees will go nuts on the Eagles if he can get guys running after contact. If Matt Ryan looked like an expert picking apart their defense then things could get ugly in New Orleans on Monday night. Philly does do a nice job at stopping the run, but the Saints hardly run the ball at all, so that will not matter very much.
As I said before, this game looks like it could be the highest scoring of the week. I thought we would see a shootout last Sunday night, but Brees and the Saints did not look like they brought their “A” game with them. If New Orleans has any hope of turning their season around and making the playoffs, they had better be on their game Monday night. Also, the Eagles could benefit greatly from a nice win this week. You can credit the Eagles three wins on solid defensive play. This week I think it is time for the offense to pick up the slack and help the Eagles back to .500. After this game, the Eagles do not have a really tough schedule. They could still be looking at a 10+ win season if they are able to clean up their silly mistakes. I think the offense will get back on track against the Saints in a shootout, and if not then there will be some major problems when Philly fans wake up on Tuesday morning.
Eagles 37, Saints 30