All week there have been rumblings around this Philadelphia Eagles team about changes, a locker room in turmoil, and a lost season. Coach Andy Reid decided not to make a change at the quarterback position. Michael Vick called a players only meeting to clear the air in the locker room. The season that started with such high expectations hangs in the balance against the New Orleans Saints on Monday night. With a record of 3-4 the Eagles need a win to stay in the playoff race, especially with the NFC being so much better than the AFC. The 2-5 New Orleans Saints are trying to stay positive and believe that they could still make the playoffs, however that seems like a lost cause. How will the two underperforming teams match up this Monday night?
New Orleans Rushing Offense: The Saints rank dead last in the NFL in rushing yards per game. Running back Darren Sproles also missed practice today with a hand injury. The Saints are notorious for their pass first, pass second, approach so the lack of rushing success does not come as a surprise. The Eagles rush defense has been solid all season. The 10th ranked rushing defense led by Demeco Ryans should have no trouble stopping the Saints if and when they do try and run the football. This is probably the least important aspect of the game because the Saints will rely heavily on Drew Brees and their passing attack.
New Orleans Passing Offense: The Saints rank first in passing offense. What they lack in rushing, they make up in passing. Drew Brees may not be racking up wins but he has been racking up the passing yards (2,310). The Saints will spread the defense out and let Drew Brees make his reads and go to work. Brees' favorite target is Marques Colston. Colston has 40 receptions for 580 yards and five touchdowns this season. Colston is the prototypical possession receiver; his 6'4" frame makes him a force to be reckoned with in the redzone. Colston is great at using his body, but he is not the fastest receiver. Expect Nhamdi Asomugha to spend a large portion of Monday night covering Colston. Due to Colston's lack of speed and Nhamdi's physical nature it should be a favorable matchup for Nhamdi. Tight end Jimmy Graham is a matchup nightmare. Mychal Kendricks and Kurt Coleman should receive the assignment of shutting him down. After getting torched by the Atlanta Falcons last week, the Eagles pass defense draws an even more potent passing attack this week.
New Orleans Rushing Defense: The Saints rushing defense is ranked 31st in the NFL, that is second worst. The entire Saints defense has been awful all season long. The game is being played in the Superdome, so if the Eagles can establish their ground game it may silence the crowd. For weeks now, the Eagles fans have been demanding LeSean McCoy get more carries. Well in order to silence the crowd, take pressure off of Vick, and get your best player (McCoy) the ball, the Eagles NEED TO RUN THE FOOTBALL 25+ times against this pathetic rushing defense.
New Orleans Passing Defense: The Saints pass defense is not much better, checking in at 30th in the NFL. The secondary has given up big plays all season long. Last week Peyton Manning torched the Saints for 300+ passing yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. While Michael Vick is no Peyton Manning, he should be able to get on track against a porous Saints secondary. Vick's passing success will largely be dependent on how the offensive line will perform. Against the Falcons, the Eagles offensive line performed averagely. The line seems to be building some continuity as they get acclimated to each other. The noise on Monday night will test the line and Vick, but expect the offense to put up points.
Prediction: 31-30 Eagles win. This game will be high scoring and be close. Both teams need to win in order to keep their dismal playoff hopes alive. The Saints have not held an opponent to less than 27 points all season. The Eagles defense was shredded by the Falcons last week and has a new defensive coordinator, expect the Saints to score points as well. In the end Vick will engineer one of his late game drives to keep the season and the team intact for at least one more week.
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