Despite a loss last week to the Denver Broncos, the (2-5) New Orleans Saints, led by Drew Brees (pictured) and the NFL’s number one passing offense, are still keeping alive hopes that they can execute one of the biggest comebacks in league history and make the 2012 playoffs.
Standing in their way in a pivotal, must-win week nine match-up is Michael Vick and the (3-4) Philadelphia Eagles, who too find themselves in a do-or-die situation (8.40pm ET, Monday).
Nothing has really gone the way the Saints had expected this season. Having to deal with the bounty gate hanging over their head during the course of the entire offseason, the Saints struggled to begin the season. They dropped four consecutive games to start the year, including losing games against Carolina and Kansas City, giving those two teams their only wins in 2012. With suggestions that New Orleans might miss the playoffs, Brees increased his level of play and the team went on to win back-to-back games against San Diego and Tampa Bay. They were easily handled in week eight by the Broncos as Brees as well as the defense, continued to struggle.
Just like the Saints, Philadelphia had its own brand of offseason drama, as they too got off to an unexpected start. With head coach Andy Reid’s job literally placed on the line, the Eagles managed to win their first two games, albeit doing so with the slimmest of margins and with an unenviable touchdown to turnover ratio. Still, the Eagles managed to start the season with a 3-1 record and the possession of first place in the highly contested NFC East. That was however, before their turnovers and overall inconsistent play caught up to them and they lost three straight against Pittsburgh, Detroit and Atlanta.
Two Words to Describe the Philadelphia Eagles: Perfectly Average
When the Eagles made the bold move of signing Michael Vick to his first contract since he was released from prison, they had big plans in mind for their team. Under Reid, the Eagles had become accustomed to making the playoffs, even reaching the NFC Championship game. They were never however able to overcome that final hurdle and win the franchise’s first Superbowl. That was expected to change with Vick at quarterback and up and coming young talents such as WR Desean Jackson and RB Lesean McCoy backing him up.
While Vick has proven that he can still play the quarterback position, the Eagles haven’t exactly experienced that monster improvement they were expecting. Vick has played in parts of four seasons with the Eagles helping the team to an 11-5 record in 2009 and a 12-4 record in 2010. When he began starting in 2011, Philadelphia saw their record drop to 8-8. Despite winning their last four games, the Eagles fell just shy of the playoffs. In 2012, Vick has gotten the team off to a 3-4 record and playoffs yet again, seem to be out of reach.
An average record is often accompanied by average or below average stats and that is exactly the case for the Eagles. On offense, they rank 15th in the league with 245.7 passing yards a game, rank 10th with 117.7 rushing yards a game and 13th with 363.4 total yards per game. The Eagles are not much better on defense either. They are allowing 22.1 points a game which is 16th, 339.6 total yards which is 12th, 229.1 pass yards a game which ranks 14th and 110.4 rush yards which is good enough for 17th.
What is interesting about the Eagles is that in the first two games they won this season, despite winning by a total of two points, on defense, Philly was a different team. They allowed 39 points which isn’t great, but also at the time led the league in forced turnovers. Since those first two games however, this defense has yet to force a turnover and up until last week against Atlanta, had yet to record another sack. In fact on the season, the Eagles have just nine sacks which is nine less than Eagles’ defensive end Jason Babin had himself last year.
To say the Eagles have struggled is an understatement but on commenting about their average start, it is worth noting the team has lost just two games by more than a field goal. It is also worth noting that the Eagles have not won a game by more than a field goal.
The Saints Need More Than Just a Passing Game
Last year, the Saints’ defense was lacking in multiple areas but from an average fan’s perspective, you wouldn’t have known that. This is because Brees and the high flying offense 13 out of 16 games managed to outscore what the defense gave up.
This season, Brees has been just about as good as he was last year. In just seven games he has already thrown for 2,310 yards, an average of 330 yards a game. After seven games last year, he was averaging slightly better at 353 yards a game. Last year he had 18 touchdowns after the first seven games, but is besting that this year with 20 touchdowns.
For as good as Brees has been however, the Saints defense has actually worse from 2011 to 2012. They are ranked 30th in both passing yards per game (304.6) and points allowed (30.9), are ranked 31st in allowing 170.1 rushing yards a game and are dead last in allowing 474.7 total yards per contest. It is quite lopsided to see how bad the Saints are on defense compared to Brees and his first place passing offense.
As can be seen by the record however, without a running game (the Saints rank 32nd with just 72.6 YPG) and with a defense as bad as it is, the Saints can’t win with Brees alone.
Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints Picks Verdict
The Saints are staked three points at home which should be enough to beat the Eagles.
- Take New Orleans -3pts @ +100 with BetOnline to cover the spread. It is -105 with Bovada.
- Bet on under the 51.5 total points @ -110 with BetOnline Sportsbook as the Eagles offense won’t be able to exploit the Saints’ defense as badly as other teams have. It is under 52 points @ -115 with Bovada.
- NOTE to Non-Americans: Place this bet with Bet365.