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The Saints are looking to knock off their ninth victory in a row, a feat the Saints haven’t achieved since they won 9-straight in 2011 (if you count the Wildcard game). However, after a fun week last week in Cincinnati, New Orleans will have to come back down to Earth against much better competition in the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles may be playing with a banged up defense, but their offense has the ability to be explosive and hang around longer than is comfortable. Here are 5 keys to knocking off the former Super Bowl champs and sealing a big win at home.
1. Bend but Don’t Break
The addition of Golden Tate to the Eagles is huge. Tate has always found success against New Orleans scoring 5 touchdowns in as many games against the Saints whose defenses forget how to tackle once he’s opposite the line of scrimmage. The difference for Tate now is that he’s got a better QB and weapons like Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and Nelson Agholor around him. The Saints will have to work hard in order to keep he Eagles offense from keeping this game close. One way to do that is the bend, but not break. We can always expect the first Saints defensive drive to resemble a dumpster fire being put out by a gas pump, but after that diagnosis drive Dennis Allen likes so much, it’ll be up to the defense to adjust and limit scoring opportunities. Look for the Saints secondary to give up lots of yardage, but limit Philly to field goals on a couple of key drives.
2. Control the Tempo Early
Over the Saints 8-game win streak, they’ve managed to win time of possession 7 times. This is indicative of the defense being able to get off the field as of late, which is huge. But also, the growing success of the run game. Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara combined for a huge game last week and I expect the Saints to lean on the two of them early to help construct one of those 15+ play drives to open the game. After the Eagles already knicked up defense grows tired, Sean Payton should be able to open up the playbook.
3. Be Aggressive When it’s Time
Playing a little of the smash mouth football we’ve been seeing from the offensive line and run game the recent weeks will eventually tire the Eagles hampered defense. After that, Sean Payton should open up the playbook and take some calculated shots downfield. Michael Thomas looks slated to have a huge game as the Eagles will have to choose whether to provide safety help on CGM’s side or use Malcolm Jenkins to try to neutralize Alvin Kamara. Either way, one will buy the other a few shots downfield. Sean Payton gameplanned for the Eagles ahead of last year’s conference championship even though the Saints were eliminated. Even though he’s not facing a team of that same caliber, I expect that he and this team will play like they are.
4. Don’t Let the Eagles Find a Run Game
In 4 of the Eagles 5 losses, Philly rushed for fewer than 100 yards, making them winless when they do so. In the one game they did top 100 yards, it was an overtime game in which they did not top the century mark in regulation. The Saints are coming in allowing just over 80 yards rushing per game, number one in the league. Continuing to limit production on the ground and keeping the Eagles one-dimensional will help the Saints seal this victory. We saw last week against the Bengals that New Orleans was struggling against the run early, but since the Offense got off to such a hot start (35 points in the first half for the second week in a row) Cincy had to lean on the passing game. A combination of the Saints run defense continuing their success and the Saints offense getting ahead and wearing down Philadelphia will keep the Eagles reliant upon the passing game. Which simply won’t be enough to keep up with Sean Payton and Drew Brees.
5. Keep Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert Under Control
Ertz and Goedert have proven to be favorite targets of Carson Wentz. The Saints haven’t had to deal with too many elite Tight Ends as of late due to injuries and personnel. This week, they’ll face two. Or one and an up and comer. We talked about how Golden Tate will be a factor, it’s reasonable to expect that these TEs will be a big part of Philly’s attack against a weak passing defense. The Saints have fared well against the TE position this season thus far, but this will be a different test. One they’ll need to pass as cleanly as possible. Thanks to the addition of Demario Davis, the recovery of Alex Anzalone, and the improvement of Vonn Bell, there’s a good chance the defense holds fine against these guys. But if there’s going to be a TE combo that’s going to stretch this defense in 2018, it’s the Ertz/Goedert tandem.
Follow Ross on Twitter @RossJacksonASC