Lawlor: Game Preview vs. Saints

Forget last year. Forget last week.

Live in the moment.

The Eagles must do that if they're going to beat the Saints. If you get up 7-0, that's great, but keep grinding. If you get down 7-0, don't worry. Keep grinding. Live in the moment.

The Saints might be the best team in the league right now. They're 8-1, lead the league in scoring, and are coming off a 37-point win over a team with a winning record. The Saints will also be at home in one of the loudest stadiums in the league. This is going to be quite a challenge.

Drew Brees could make a strong case as the league's MVP right now. I've been watching him since his days at Purdue and he's playing the best football of his amazing career. He's completing 77.3 percent of his passes. I can't stress to you how insane that number is. That would be good in practice. In games? That's shocking.

Brees has thrown 21 touchdowns. He's only got one interception. He's only been sacked nine times. All of this tells you that Brees is making quick reads and accurate throws.

He's also making the right reads. We see plenty of quarterbacks get the ball out quickly. Most don't deliver big plays. Brees has an uncanny knack for knowing when to hold the ball an extra second because someone down the field is going to come open.

It helps that the Saints have one of the best running games in the NFL. Their offensive line has played brilliantly this year, opening holes for the runners and protecting Brees. The Saints are winning games because they're winning the line of scrimmage.

The Saints will be missing left tackle Terron Armstead in this game and that's something the Eagles have to take advantage of. Michael Bennett lines up on that side most of the time and he's playing really well right now. Bennett needs a big day for the Eagles to slow Brees down.

You must get pressure on him. Teams have blitzed Brees a lot this year and it hasn't worked. You need your defensive line to win the battle up front. The Eagles have the guys to do that. Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and Bennett need to hit Brees and affect him.

Sidney Jones will return for the Eagles. They'll need him, with Ronald Darby done for the year. The Saints don't have an elite set of receivers, but they do have a star in Michael Thomas. The Eagles will need to focus on slowing him down. That will mean some double-teams and creative coverages.

The most dynamic player on the Saints' offense is running back Alvin Kamara. He's run for 11 touchdowns and has caught 55 passes. He can beat you in a variety of ways.

The man who will be tasked with slowing him down is linebacker Jordan Hicks. While Hicks is second on the team in tackles, he's been up and down this year. He hasn't been the level of playmaker as in years past. He also has been burned in coverage a few times.

Hicks needs to have a big game. When Kamara gets the ball in space, he can be deadly. Hicks is a good athlete and good tackler. He has good coverage skills. He can handle this matchup if he plays up to his ability. The Eagles need him to do that. If you can slow Kamara down, you can slow the Saints down.

As if all of that isn't enough, Jim Schwartz has to deal with Taysom Hill as well. Hill is a role player who will line up at quarterback, running back, tight end, or receiver. He can run the option or be used on trick plays. He averages 6 yards per carry, has caught two passes, and completed two passes. He gives New Orleans a true wild card to use when it needs it.

While the Saints do have a dynamic offense, they are vulnerable on the other side of the ball. Three teams have scored 35 or more points on them. Four teams have gained 400 or more yards on them. Opposing quarterbacks have thrown for 19 touchdowns and have a passer rating of 108.8 against the Saints. They are 31st in passing yards allowed. You can throw the ball on them.

Carson Wentz and the Eagles' offense will need to come up big if the team is going to pull off an upset this weekend. The Eagles came alive in the second half last Sunday, scoring 17 points. It would be great if that momentum carried over to this week.

I would expect a lot of RPOs and play-action passes. The Saints have the No. 1 run defense in the NFL. That defense is aggressive. Show them run looks and then throw around or over them.

Golden Tate will be playing his second game as an Eagle. He knows more of the playbook and also the no-huddle signals and terminology this time out, so he should be more of a factor.

Lane Johnson is expected to return at right tackle and that will give the offense a boost. He is one of the best right tackles in the NFL. With Johnson out, the coaches had to build their game plan around protection. With him back, the coaches can be more aggressive with their playcalling.

The Saints have two really good players up front, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins and defensive end Cameron Jordan. They have combined for 11 sacks. Jordan can be a dominant player at times. The Eagles' offensive line must control these guys so Wentz can have time to attack that secondary.

It will be interesting to see what kind of approach the Eagles take. They could be really aggressive and throw the ball downfield. You would hope to score points to match the Saints' offense. The coaches could opt for more of a ball-control approach. Move the chains and keep Brees on the sideline.

The Eagles can absolutely win this game. They have a defensive line that can pressure Brees. They have linebackers who can help cover runners and receivers. They have an offensive line that can block the Saints. They also have Carson Wentz, a quarterback who can move the ball and score points.

The bottom line is that the Eagles need to avoid mistakes and they need to make plays. They can do that if they stay focused and play with some energy and emotion. This is the first time all year the Eagles are underdogs. Embrace that role and play with an edge. Go beat the Saints.

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Eagles Message Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. You can also find his work at IgglesBlitz.com where he is the site's editor.

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