This is a below-average situation for Philadelphia's offense. New Orleans gave up a lot of yards and points early in the season, but its defense jelled as the season progressed. In its last 12 meaningful games, it allowed ...
... an average of 18 points -- 3rd-fewest in the league. It buried Philadelphia back in Week 11, of course, with the Eagles finishing with only 7 points and under 200 total yards of offense. Not that Philadelphia will be anywhere close to that awful, but on paper this should be the least productive of the eight teams playing this week. ... Philadelphia shouldn't have much success on the ground. They struggled to run it throughout the season; only four teams finished with fewer rushing yards. And the Saints might have the league's best run defense. Only Chicago allowed fewer rushing yards in the regular season, and New Orleans came up big in a number of games (most notably ...
This report is taken from today's Week 19 edition of Fantasy Index Weekly (for the divisional round of the NFL playoffs). The newsletter includes our player rankings for the divisional playoff games, plus 9 pages of matchup previews, plus stat projections and custom rankings for the games being played this weekend.
... putting the clamps on Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley and Saquon Barkley). The Eagles ran for only 58 yards in the earlier meeting, and Sean Payton after that game said the game plan coming in was to squat on the run and make Carson Wentz pass the ball. Philadelphia played against another really good run defense on Sunday and averaged under 2 yards per carry. Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams should all play. Sproles seems to be the back they trust the most, with his quickness, versatility and veteran smarts. He knows his way around the Superdome, of course, and he's been playing the most in recent games. He's averaged 27 rushing and 30 receiving yards in his last four games, with 1 TD. Sproles caught 2-3 passes in each of those games. He wasn't available for the earlier Saints game but was on the field for 56 percent of their plays last week. Smallwood is a similar kind of back who can do a lot of the same things; he was on the field for 41 percent of the plays last week. Smallwood has averaged 31 rushing and 19 receiving yards in his last four games, with 2 TDs. Adams is by far their biggest back, and their best power option. He ran for over 80 yards in a pair of games in the not-too-distant past. But nowadays he looks like the third of the three. He hasn't gotten on the field much the last two games (most notably on the field for only 1 play at Chicago). Adams isn't as good in the passing game, so the offense is more limited when he's in there. Adams has run for 101 yards in his last four games, averaging just 2.7 per attempt. Sproles and Smallwood look like better options because they at least have some potential to gain 30-plus yards on a few dumpoff passes. ... Nick Foles has been hot. Three weeks in a row he's thrown multiple touchdowns, and he's averaged 307 yards since returning to the starting lineup. He's doing a much better job than Carson Wentz of getting the ball out of his hands -- he's launching some deep balls, giving his receivers chances to make plays. This matchup is less than ideal in that the Saints play better at home and were all over them back in Week 11, when Wentz threw for only 156 yards. But the Eagles are playing a lot better now, and this is a defense that will give up some passing production at times. The Saints tend to want to stop the run and make opponents pass, and some opponents were able to move it on them pretty well through the air. In each of their last two meaningful games at home, they allowed over 375 passing yards and multiple TD passes. That happened to them in six of their 15 games (we're choosing to ignore their Week 17 game). Looking at their overall body of work, it wouldn't be unreasonable for Foles to put up 260-plus yards and a couple of touchdowns. Whatever touchdowns the Eagles score should come through the air. The Eagles in their last 14 games have scored 29 passing versus only 7 rushing touchdowns. The Saints allowed 30 passing and only 12 rushing touchdowns in the regular season, including a 9-0 mix in their last five meaningful games.
|Big stats against Saints|
With the kind of game plan the Eagles will employ, it's a healthy enough situation for their wide receivers. Alshon Jeffery has been playing really well with Nick Foles at quarterback. They're both tall, and Foles seems to have a good feel for throwing lobs that Jeffery can pull down. In their four games together, Jeffery has caught 22 passes for 383 yards. Just one touchdown, but lots of big plays downfield -- that's 96 yards per game. We're not thinking he'll be used as extensively in this game. The Saints have Marshon Lattimore, and he's been one of the league's best cover corners at times -- has had some success specifically against Julio Jones, who's even bigger than Jeffery. But as well as Jeffery is playing, we're ranking him ahead of Philadelphia's other wide receivers. Golden Tate had a pair of huge catches at Chicago, including the game-winning touchdown, but he has tended to be a lightly used possession receiver, especially recently. Tate has averaged 4 catches for 33 yards in the four games Foles has started, with just the one touchdown. Nelson Agholor tends to run the same kind of possession routes, but with more potential to every once in a while get deep for a big play. He's averaged 49 yards since Foles returned to the starting lineup, with 3 TDs in four games. Not much difference between those guys, but we're ranking Agholor higher. After those three, Philadelphia's remaining receivers should be lightly used. You can't start a player like Jordan Matthews or Mike Wallace and be confident they'll see even one target. ... Zach Ertz should see a healthy number of balls. He caught 5 passes last week. But he's been more inconsistent without Carson Wentz. Two of Ertz's three busiest games have come with Foles at quarterback, but so have two of his three quietest games. He wasn't a factor in the earlier New Orleans game, catching only 2 passes for 15 yards. He averaged 73 yards in the regular season, with 8 TDs. The Saints allowed 30 touchdown passes in the regular season, but just 5 to tight ends. Dallas Goedert also plays extensively (usually lining up as more of a traditional in-line tight end) and has averaged 21 receiving yards, with 5 TDs -- just 3 fewer than Ertz. ... The Eagles look like the team most likely to lose, so we'll rank Jake Elliott as the worst of the eight kickers. The Saints in the regular season allowed the fewest kicking points in the league (just over 5 per week). Elliott at least will kick in better weather conditions than four of the kickers in other games. ... The Eagles Defense is a lesser option. They've got some talent up front, but Drew Brees doesn't tend to make many mistakes -- just 17 sacks and 5 interceptions in the regular season. Philadelphia doesn't have a dangerous kick returner. At 35, Darren Sproles is no longer an elite punt returner. They have another former Saint, Boston Scott, handling kickoff returns, but he put the offense in deep holes with short returns out of the end zone in two of their last three games (he's been poor enough that they might even consider plugging somebody else into that role). Philadelphia hasn't scored a defensive touchdown all year, while the Saints have allowed only one such score (back in Week 1).