This may be the toughest game to pick on Wild Card weekend. In week 17 the Philadelphia Eagles pulled out a close game on the road in Dallas to win the division and get the 3rd seed in the NFC. That victory earned them the right to host a 1st round playoff game against Drew Brees and the Saints. And truthfully it's not just Drew Brees throwing the ball around and simply winning shootouts.
They now have a very good defense under Rob Ryan and the ability to win a game by playing solid defense if the offense isn't flowing. They've proved it throughout the season by winning tight match ups in the lower 20's as opposed to the final score being 45 - 41 as it has been over the past several years. I'm not faulting the Saints for marching down the field with the brain of Sean Payton and the skills of Drew Brees. The reality is they've been a bad defense for the most part until this season. The Saints finished with an (11 - 5) which is better than their opponent on Saturday who ended the season on a hot streak at (10 - 6).
The Eagles are a solid bunch of players with an enthusiastic and talented head coach in Chip Kelly. LeSean McCoy won the rushing title this season and was one of the leagues top 3 running backs in receiving out of the backfield. There's no doubt he's the real McCoy and can take over a football game much like Jamaal Charles in Kansas City. These are two highly unique and gifted football players who would be in contention for the MVP if not for Peyton Manning setting every single season passing record in 2013. Peyton Manning and Nick Foles happen to have a bit in common as they share one of those particular records.
After Michael Vick inevitably got inured during the season, Nick Foles has stepped in and not only won the starting quarterback job but did it in incredible fashion. He started 10 games at QB and played in 3 others after multiple Vick injuries and was (8 - 2) as the teams starting quarterback. He threw 27 TD's and only 2 interceptions on the year. Seven of those touchdowns were thrown in one game and that's the link that binds Nick and Peyton! Hey, when you can put your name next to Peyton Manning's in the record book then you have the right to talk.
What Foles has done with this group is absolutely phenomenal. He is in total command of this offense and his teammates trust he'll get the job done. The man stands tall in the pocket and at 6'6 can see over everybody and view the entire field. Unlike Drew Brees who looks like he's starring at the sky when he throws the ball. That's a big part of what makes Brees such a great quarterback. That and the awesome weapons around him like Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles, Lance Moore and Marques Colston. Not to mention the architect of the offense, head coach Sean Payton.
Nick Foles has a rookie H.C. and really relies on one guy besides McCoy for the big play and that's DeSean Jackson. He is a huge playmaker and a major reason why the Eagles are where they are today. And that's NFC East champions, hosting a playoff game where the Saints struggle a bit on the road, especially outdoors when it's cold and that will likely be the case in Philadelphia Saturday night.
The Saints record indicates that they're a very good road team. But the main factor is that their numbers go down offensively, both statistically and on the scoreboard. Luckily they do have a better defense this season and are more well coached, without putting bounties out on the opposing team. But we've seen the Eagles put up big points this season in wins and losses. Like I said before, Nick Foles tied an NFL record with 7 touchdown passes in one game. Riley Cooper, Jason Avant and Brent Celek all make contributions as well so the Eagles can flap their wings in many ways.
If it's a fair weather game and mother nature doesn't interfere too much than I would give the Saints more consideration as a 6th seed with a better record to win this game. The Eagles defense is unreliable and the ball can bounce in funny ways. Anything can happen in any game, no matter where or what the prize is to be won. When I break it all down and take every element into account, I have to favor Philly in this match up. They're home, they're hot and they're ready to play ball. I remember the Saints going to Seattle with a much better regular season record than New Orleans in the Wild Card Round a few years back. As a matter of a fact the Seahawks were (7 - 9) that season and won the NFC West division. The Saints lost the game and it really wasn't close. Seattle destroyed them despite being an inferior team. On neutral ground or even at the Superdome, I would probably take the Saints. But they're outdoors in Philadelphia where it's cold and the Eagles have been hot.
Final Score: Eagles 34 - Saints 24