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Saturday, January 4, 2014

NFC Wild Card Preview: Philadelphia Eagles vs New Orleans Saints

     The match up between the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans is an interesting one, as two high octane offenses collide in the Wild Card round of the 2014 NFL Playoffs. For New Orleans, they will be led by Drew Brees, who finished the regular season with 5,162 Passing Yards (the 3rd straight year, and 4th overall that he reached the 5,000+ mark) and 39 Touchdowns (TD) and 12 Interceptions (INT). Plenty of Brees' success through the air has to do with his Tight End Jimmy Graham, who led the league in TD Receptions with 16 (Graham also had 1,215 Receiving Yards)!

     It will be interesting to see what and how the Eagles approach Graham and the rest of the Saints receiving game down. New Orleans ranked 2nd in the league in Passing Yards, which could cause mismatches and problems as Philadelphia has allowed the most passing yards in the NFL this season. If the Eagles can limit the Saints in the passing game (easier said then down) New Orleans will have to rely on its backfield. While having a very versatile backfield with Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, and Mark Ingram, the Saints rank 25th in the league in rushing yards, averaging just 92.1 yards per game. The Saints however will be without Thomas due to a chest injury and Rookie Khiry Robinson may be called upon to contribute in the backfield for New Orleans.

     The Philadelphia Eagles have the top running game in the league, averaging 160.4 yards per game, and the sole reason is LeSean McCoy, who led the NFL in rushing yards this season with 1,607! McCoy is also a dual threat as he provides an additional target for emerging star Quarterback (QB) Nick Foles! Foles, who took over as starting QB midway through the season, has thrown for an astonishing 2,891 yards and 27 TD's and has just been picked off twice in just 10 starts for the Eagles! Foles will be tested as New Orleans fields one of the best Passing Defenses in the league (2nd 194.1 ypg) led by Curtis Lofton, team leading tackler (125) and Keenan Lewis, who is among the top in the league for interceptions (4).

     For the Philadelphia Defense, Trent Cole, who led the team in sacks (8.0) and team leading tackler DeMeco Ryans (102) with 4.0 sacks of his own, will need to produce a lot of pressure onto Drew Brees early and force him into making mistakes. In the Saints final two losses of the season, Brees had four interceptions, three which led to TD's for the opposition.

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