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Xs and Os: Reid, Eagles Look to Right the Ship Against New Orleans

Background/Storylines: Eagles (3-4) and Saints (2-5)

The Eagles are simply one of the most confounding teams in the NFL. They’ve won close games against two of the top teams in the league, Baltimore and the New York Giants, but they simply can’t find a rhythm on offense, can’t stop opposing offenses in the fourth quarter, and have one of the worst kick/punt coverage teams in the league. With the recent QB controversy, it seems like the Eagles might be coming apart at the seams midway through the season. They’ll probably have to finish the season 7-2 if they want to make the playoffs—a task that may be beyond them—but luckily, the Eagles’ schedule opens up. They only have 1 more game against a team with a winning record (Week 17 versus New York). If they can get their act together, Monday night’s game against New Orleans could be what they need to jump-start the season and fight their way back into the postseason hunt.

New Orleans came into the season with high expectations even following BountyGate, but so far it’s been anything but spectacular. With bad losses against the Panthers and Chiefs, the Saints have stumbled to a 2-5 start even with 2300 yards and 20 touchdowns from QB Drew Brees. Brees is still one of the league’s most prolific passers, and his plethora of weapons—which include Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, and Lance Moore—make him as dangerous as ever. The Saints may have one of the league’s best offenses, but defensively, they’ve been historically bad. Through seven games, they’ve given up more yards (474.4 per game) than anyone ever before. Opposing teams have totaled more than 400 yards in each game, which is part of the reason New Orleans gives up over 30 points per game. A loss on Monday night would likely mean the end for this team.

Fantasy Watch: LeSean McCoy (PHI) and Jimmy Graham (NO)

The Eagles are facing the worst rush defense in the NFC; the Saints give up over 170 yards per game on the ground, and almost every RB whose played against them has racked up over 100 yards and a touchdown. With the spotlight on his team and his QB on the hot seat, expect Andy Reid to make some adjustments like he did against the Giants several weeks ago. Shady will get the ball early and often, and even with such a poor offensive line, he’ll be able to move the chains with consistency against this “Swiss cheese defense”.

My projected stats for McCoy: 109 yards rushing, 2 TDs, 14 yards receiving (24.3 points)

With Mychal Kendricks still hurting and Nate Allen limited by a hamstring injury, Eagles fans should fear All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham. Graham had over 1300 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, proving himself as one of the league’s most dangerous tight ends. He can make catches anywhere on the field and is just a matchup problem for both linebackers and safeties. While the Eagles have gotten better and limiting tight ends since Kendricks was inserted into the starting lineup, they just won’t be able to keep Graham from racking up the yards and touchdowns.

My projected stats for Graham: 84 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns (20.4 points)

Key Matchup: Nnamdi Asomugha vs Marques Colston

Can Asomugha cover Colston?

What killed the Eagles defensively last week against Atlanta was how unprepared they were to deal with several threats. As soon as the Eagles shut down Roddy White, Atlanta’s No. 1 receiver, the Falcons methodically dissected the defense by finding Julio Jones, Drew Davis, Jason Snelling, Michael Turner, and others. The Eagles didn’t have the capability to stop more than one or two threats at once, which is why they fell apart early in the second quarter.

While the Saints aren’t as talented as the Falcons were, even without Darren Sproles, they are a dangerous, balanced offense. They have two solid backs, Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas, along with several strong receiving threats—Graham, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, and star wideout Marques Colston, who is among the league leaders in receiving yards this season.  If the Eagles can stop Colston early without too many double-teams, they can divert more of the defensive attention to rushing the passer and covering Jimmy Graham. If Nnamdi Asomugha can get the upper hand, the defense could actually keep the Saints at bay. If not, the pressure will dissipate and Brees will pick apart the defense.

X-Factor: Cullen Jenkins (PHI) and Jabari Greer (NO)

The Eagles need to create pressure, but defensive ends have struggled mightily against New Orleans’ offensive line this season. In fact, the Saints have given up the sixth-fewest sacks in the NFL. So, naturally, Cullen Jenkins and the rest of the interior defensive linemen will need to step up if the defense wants to hold the Saints down. If Jenkins can generate pressure between the guard and center, he’ll not only be bringing pressure into the face of Drew Brees on passing plays, but he’ll be shutting down Pierre Thomas’ favorite running spot and denying Mark Ingram the inside run as well. His play could determine the success of the Eagles defense.

The Saints defense will give up rushing yards, but where they’ll make their money is in pass defense. They’re a horrific pass defending team (32nd in the league), but cornerback Jabari Greer has the talent to stay with any wide receiver. If he can limit what DeSean Jackson does throughout the game, he’ll give the rest of the secondary a chance to shut down Maclin or even pick Vick off a couple a times. Those kind of plays could go a long way in deciding who wins the game.

Prediction: Eagles 37, Saints 31

The Saints offense will make Todd Bowles’ defense look foolish once again, but jobs are on the line in Philadelphia. Another loss or bad performance will bring Andy Reid and Michael Vick closer to unemployment, and neither is ready to start collecting unemployment checks just yet. Reid’s game plan will be as sound as any he’s run all year, and the Eagles offense will come alive in a big way in front of the national TV audience.

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Categories: Eagles, Editorial

Author:Manav Khandelwal

I am the founder of Khandyman Sports, and follow all Philadelphia pro sports teams religiously. I also write for the Hoop76, covering the Sixers for ESPN, and am a credentialed Flyers reporter for Main Line Media News.

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