Philadelphia Eagles (10-7) (7-9-1 ATS) @ New Orleans Saints (13-3) (10-6 ATS)
NFL Divisional Round: Sunday, January 13th, 2019 at 4:40 pm ET (Mercedes-Benz Superdome)
Who counted out Nick Foles, Darren Sproles and the Philadelphia Eagles? I’ll raise my hand. And for New Orleans, once more it’s: “who dat saying dey gonna beat dem Saints?” The divisional rounds have arrived. Wildcard teams; meet the bye teams. Let’s see what’s ahead of this Sunday Night game.
Enough jibber-jabber about this supposed “Cinderella story.” These are the defending champions. There’s a reason they call it that. Teams have to go through them; and what do you know, it’s déjà vu all over again as Foles has been insterted as the starting quarterback for a hurt Carson Wentz. He’s gone undefeated straight up and against the spread in the four games since he’s taken over. And what a first round performance it was for Golden Tate in particular. Tate hauled in 5 receptions for 46 yards and the game winning touchdown at Chicago. Many wondered if the Eagles won the trade for the one-time superbowl champion (with Seattle). It looks great so far.
His teammate who’s also trending, the whole year mind you, is Zach Ertz. What’s fascinating is how Philadelphia’s play calling involved mostly one-tight end sets versus Chicago. You’d think Chicago’s defense would have clamped down on Ertz. He still reeled in 5 catches for 52 yards. As a betting person, one speculates when he’ll have a down performance. The last time Ertz was held to 2 catches was against this New Orleans team in Philly’s week 11 defeat. Outside of this, he’s been consistent throughout and is 2nd in the NFL in receptions (121) behind New Orleans’s Michael Thomas (125). The unit that has had trouble all year is Philadelphia’s defense, especially the secondary. But they came up significant forcing Chicago to go 5-16 on third down including a key forced deflection by Cre’Von LeBlanc towards the end of the 1st half. Philly did surrender a touchdown in the 4th quarter and 303 yards to Mitchell Trubisky. There is no doubt, however, surrounding this front 7 that includes Tim Jernigan, Fletcher Cox, Michael Bennett etc. The front allows the sixth fewest rushing yards per game.
New Orleans hasn’t gone full throttle since week 16 and that’s because, by that point, they’d already clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs until the Super Bowl. That has given the usual suspects like Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Cameron Jordan ample time to rest and prepare after a long productive season. No doubt we’ll see the duo of Brees and Thomas try and connect often. Expect to see heavy doses of Mark Ingram and Kamara as well, especially Kamara. Kamara had 11 rushing touchdowns through the first 9 games. Then he went he went 4 games without one and started that drought versus Philly. But in his last 2 games, he’s found the end zone three times. I see a trend here and with the 2-set backfield they have, look for the Saints to open up the playbook.
I also see another trend: Tre’Quan Smith. Here’s a guy who in the final meaningless game against Carolina, had the sole touchdown to go with 3 receptions. Of course, the Saints lost having let off the gas pedal. So why does this matter? Well, he played the same amount of snaps as Thomas and it was Smith, not Thomas, who found the end zone. If anyone knows coach Sean Payton, every game counts for something. So again, look for the playbook to unfold–tenfold to a variety of different options–because if you consider the last time these two teams played, it was Smith who had his best game of the season with 10 catches for 157 yards and a score. The big easy’s defense is also familiar with Philly. New Orleans racked up 3 interceptions and rendered the Eagles running game useless in week 11. Jordan and Demario Davis stifled Philly’s inside and out running attack and they bring into the divisional battle a pass rush that includes 17 sacks between them.
Philadelphia is 4-1-1 ATS in its last 6 games
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Philadelphia’s last 6 games on the road
New Orleans is 1-4 ATS in its last 5 games
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of New Orleans’s last 7 games
The total has gone OVER in 9 of New Orleans’s last 13 games at home
These teams could not be more parallel. Both have the top two recievers in receptions. Foles and Brees wear number 9 and went to the same high school. Both teams have had questions surrounding their secondary and praise to their defensive front. Watch for the old savvy vets in Sproles (back in the Superdome) and Ted Ginn Jr. to perhaps make a big play. There’s many similarities between the two, but the difference is how the game will develop in contrast to their last meeting. I still like the Saints because of the break. But expect the Eagles to ride the wave off their impressive first round win.
Pick: UNDER 51