Six Points: Saints vs. Eagles
When the schedule was released, many expected the Week 5 game between the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles to have one of the highest projected point totals of the season. Four weeks into the season, both offenses look less explosive than most had assumed they would be, but this could be the matchup where that changes.
The Saints are looking to carry momentum from their overtime win in Week 4 over the Dallas Cowboys where Drew Brees connected with running back C.J. Spiller on an 80-yard touchdown strike to win the game. Brees might be more injured than he is leading on, but the Saints have the skill position players to take advantage of what he can bring to the horizontal passing game.
The Eagles finally established a passing game in Week 4 — compiling 270 yards and three touchdowns through the air — but they didn’t get started until the second half when it was too late. The Eagles will look to put together a complete performance from their offense for the first time in 2015.
Here are the keys to the game for both the Saints and Eagles.
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1. Don’t make Drew Brees overdo it
We saw Brees finally break through last Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, as he completed 33 of 41 passes for 359 yards and two touchdowns. While Brees is still dealing with a bruised rotator cuff, asking him to force the ball down the field would be the worst situation for him and the Saints as a whole. The Eagles are going to try to make this a shootout, but Brees needs to do exactly what he did in Week 4.
2. Pressure Sam Bradford early and often
The Saints tallied three sacks against the Cowboys last Sunday, so we know they’re capable of pressuring the quarterback. Bradford has been all over the place at times this season, and even in last week against the Redskins when he threw three touchdowns, he completed just 53.6 percent of his passes. The more pressure that New Orleans can get on Bradford right out of the gate, the more likely it is they walk away with a win.
3. Continue to frustrate DeMarco Murray and the run game for Philadelphia
As a group, the Eagles have rushed 89 times for 280 yards and three touchdowns. That’s an average of 3.3 yards per carry, and obviously Murray’s slow start is what everyone is talking about. Murray specifically has rushed 29 times for 47 yards and one score. Chip Kelly seems to have no interest in limiting the attempts, so don’t be surprised to see Murray lead the way in rushing attempts. If that’s the case, the Saints need to continue the trend by shutting down the run game of the Eagles.
1. Attack Saints cornerback Brandon Browner
Brandon Browner is no longer that premier cornerback we saw just a few years ago during his days with the Seattle Seahawks. Despite looking a step slower in 2014 with the New England Patriots, Browner found his way to the Saints in free agency this offseason. Through the quarter point, Browner has been an absolute disaster in pass coverage. He has earned Pro Football Focus’ worst pass coverage grade of any cornerback in the NFL by allowing 285 yards receiving in primary coverage and a 102.4 opposing passer rating. Browner will match up with the Eagles’ split end rotation that includes Riley Cooper, Miles Austin and, at times, the rookie Nelson Agholor.
2. Use the pass to open up the running game
Under Chip Kelly, the Eagles have thrived on offense by using their running attack to open things up in the passing game. In 2015, the Eagles have a lot less talent on their interior offensive line, and both starting offensive tackles are playing through injuries. There likely won’t be running lanes against a Saints front that has actually held their own against the ground attack. Instead, the Eagles should use the quick passing game featuring their running backs, tight end Zach Ertz and slot wide receiver Jordan Matthews.
3. Make Brees beat you deep
Drew Brees returned to action in Week 5, but his world-class throwing arm looked close to what we’ve seen this season from the likes of Alex Smith. Brees and the Saints passing game may be forced to alter their attack for the remainder of 2015, and the Eagles have to make sure they don’t allow him to get into a rhytm via the horizontal passing game. The Eagles like to use a lot of press-man and zero coverage concepts under defensive coordinator Bill Davis anyway, and they will have to deploy these coverages early and often in Week 5.