Free NFL Picks: Saints at Eagles Playoff Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 1/2/2014
Tough picking which game to preview on wild-card weekend. You have the Chiefs at Colts, a rematch of a game won rather surprisingly easily by Indianapolis 23-7 in Kansas City on Dec. 22. The Chargers visit a Cincinnati team that looks unstoppable at home; San Diego is incredibly lucky to be there. If Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop hadn't missed a potential 41-yard winning field goal last weekend in San Diego, the Bolts, who won in overtime, wouldn't be in the playoffs (Pittsburgh would). You have the Packers suddenly looking like a Super Bowl contender again with Aaron Rodgers' dramatic return last week against Chicago. Rodgers has lost to the 49ers three times in the past two seasons and looks for payback on Sunday.
But I'm an offensive guy, so I'm going with New Orleans at Philadelphia, Saturday night's matchup between the NFC East champion and third-seeded Eagles and No. 6 seed Saints. The total is easily the highest of the four weekend games. It's essentially the second playoff game in a row for both. Philly was in a winner-take-all game last week in Dallas and beat the Cowboys 24-22 -- I recommended taking Dallas and the seven points in that one, so that paid off. The Saints entered last week knowing they could have been as high as the NFC's No. 2 seed or out of the playoffs. They easily took care of business 42-17 at home against Tampa Bay to end Greg Schiano's tenure with the Bucs. However, Carolina's win gave the Panthers the NFC South title over New Orleans. It turned out the Saints would have made the playoffs anyway because Arizona lost to San Francisco.
These teams didn't meet this season but did in Week 9 last year in New Orleans. The Saints won 28-13 as Drew Brees threw for 239 yards and two scores. I read nothing into that because the Eagles were in a freefall back then, current starting QB Nick Foles didn't play and Coach Chip Kelly was still at Oregon. The Saints didn't have either head coach Sean Payton or defensive coordinator Rob Ryan last season.
Saints at Eagles Betting Story Lines
The experience factor has to go to New Orleans here. The Eagles are in the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season and haven't won a postseason game since the 2008 season. So few key players are really still around. The Saints missed out last year without Payton but had made the playoffs the previous three seasons and have four playoff wins in that span, including their only Super Bowl title. Offensively the team really isn't much different with Brees and Payton the constants. Incidentally, the Eagles' Foles broke Brees passing records at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas.
Philadelphia ranked No. 2 in the NFL this season in total offense and the Saints No. 4. They do things differently. The Eagles led the league by a wide margin in rushing at 160.4 yards per game. LeSean McCoy easily won the rushing title with a franchise-record 1,607 yards. He's the first Eagle to lead the NFL in rushing since 1949. McCoy came up big in the win over Dallas with 131 yards on 27 carries. He also led the NFL in yards from scrimmage, attempts and runs of at least 10 yards. New Orleans is No. 19 in stopping the run, allowing 111.6 yards per game but 28th at 4.6 yards per carry. That's worrisome because McCoy averages 5.1 yards per attempt.
The Saints don't run the ball well, averaging just 92.1 yards per game, but they don't bother rushing much with Brees under center. They are No. 2 in passing with Brees finishing No. 2 to Peyton Manning in yards (5,162) and touchdowns (39). Probably it's a close battle between Brees and McCoy for NFL MVP if not for Manning's historic season. The Eagles finished last in the NFL in passing yards allowed but did pick off 19 passes. In some ways you can't judge the Philly defense purely on stats because it's usually on the field a lot, although the Eagles offense doesn't play as fast as Kelly would like it to.
The big thing here is which Saints team shows up on the road. For one thing, New Orleans has never won a road playoff game. This year, the Saints are just 3-5 outside the Superdome (2-4 in outdoor games) and none of those wins came against a team that finished above .500. The Saints topped 20 points in just three road games and lost two of those. In their past four away, New Orleans has totaled 53 offensive points.
Saints at Eagles NFL Playoffs Betting Odds and Trends
At WagerWeb, the Eagles are 2.5-point favorites with a total of 53. The Saints were 8-8 ATS this season (1-7 on road) and 6-10 “over/under” (2-6 on road). The Eagles were 8-8 ATS (3-5 at home) and 9-7 O/U (3-5 at home). New Orleans is 4-11 ATS in its past 15 January games. It is 0-6 ATS in its past six after a win. The Saints are 1-4 ATS in their past five playoff road games. Philly is 4-1 ATS in its past five following an ATS loss. The Eagles are 1-5 ATS in their past six January games. The under is 4-0 in the Saints' past four after a win. The over has hit in eight of the Saints' past 10 playoff games. The over is 10-2 in the Eagles' past 12 following an ATS loss. The over is 5-1 in the past six meetings.
Free NFL Picks: Saints at Eagles Betting Predictions
The weather isn't going to cooperate with New Orleans, as you would expect in Philly in January. It will probably be in the high teens/low 20s by kickoff. Philly started the season losing its first four home games but won the last four, and the finale was a scary impressive 54-11 rout of the Bears.
I'm not confident Brees can get enough big plays in the elements, and I'm not seeing New Orleans sustaining long drives. It doesn't seem like Philly will turn the ball over as it has just 19 times (second-best in NFC) and Foles has thrown only two interceptions. Meanwhile, the Eagles offense had a league-leading 98 plays of 20 yards or more this season. That’s the most since the league started keeping track of that. I like Philly and the under.
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