Good morning, Eagles fans! The countdown to New Orleans is on. The players have one more day off to recover before they're back on the practice field Wednesday. Offensive coordinator Mike Groh and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will speak with the media at noon and we will carry both of them live. Here's what you need to know in today's Morning Roundup presented by Microsoft leading off with excitement hot off the presses.
1. Cover Boy
Quarterback Nick Foles' play has landed him and the Eagles back on cover of Sports Illustrated.
The January 14th edition of the magazine features a cover story on how the Eagles are looking for another playoff run with Foles at the helm. The cover is a picture of Foles firing a pass in Sunday's NFC Wild Card game against the Chicago Bears. Foles is no stranger to SI covers, having donned the front of a few during last season's playoff run as well as one as an Eagle in 2013.
2. Different Eagles Come Marching In
The Eagles' game against the Saints on Sunday in the NFC Divisional Round will be a rematch from the regular season. But don't tell that to either team.
While the Saints dismantled the Eagles 48-7 in Week 11 of the season, both sides know this is not the same matchup. The Eagles have won six of their last seven games and have a different quarterback leading the way. Saints head coach Sean Payton, who will be coaching his full starters on Sunday for the first time since Week 16, held a press conference Monday ahead of the game. Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro writes that Payton knows that the Eagles will be a much tougher opponent this time around:
"Situationally, they're playing well. They're playing well in the red zone, defensively and offensively," Payton said on Monday in a press conference with New Orleans reporters. "I think they're obviously a different team than we faced earlier in the year. A different quarterback is playing right now. I think there is a confidence you see. The one on the road was a big one for them in L.A. You just go through the games and you go through the win streak and you have Houston next, at Washington, at Chicago. They've kind of been in a playoff role really going back to those games needing to win to get in. So it's impressive."
3. Not Your Same Week 11 Matchup
Just how different are the Eagles and the Saints now than in Week 11? Let the numbers do the talking.
While the Eagles' have become more explosive on offense and more sound defensively, the Saints' historically good offense has declined a bit. Check out the proof that has Eagles head coach Doug Pederson approaching this game differently:
"This team believes in everything that we're doing, and you saw it (Sunday) and we're different," Pederson said. "It's a different mindset. It's a different football team. And we're a different group than when we played New Orleans the first time, and we're learning from it and obviously have been better since."
4. Eagle Eye: The Better Defense Won
Heading into last Sunday's game in Chicago, there was a lot of talk about the outstanding defense from the NFC North Champions. The Bears' led the way in almost every major statistic defensively including turnovers and interceptions. They have one of the best defensive players in football in linebacker Khalil Mack and Pro Bowl players at a few positions.
But Eagles' defensive tackle Fletcher Cox wasn't having any of that. Leading up to the game, he said the Eagles would show up at Soldier Field with the better defense. As Fran Duffy looked back on the performance of that unit, he came to the conclusion that Cox was right. Cox himself was a monster on Sunday and his performance leads Fran's Eagle Eye column on the defense in the 16-15 win:
Cox was once again a monster in this game. Whether he was dominating at the point of attack against the run or disrupting the quarterback in his pass drop, the All-Pro tackle was all over the field and consistently was making plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Not all of this shows up on the stat sheet as you can see in the video above. Cox was great against Chicago, and his presence will once again be needed this week against New Orleans.
5. Big Game Nick
Nick Foles has been dynamic in clutch situations. Fans have seen that. His confidence is contagious and it has powered the offense in crucial moments. Foles completed 8 of 11 (72.7 percent) passes for 79 yards and a touchdown with a 122.9 passer rating on third and fourth downs on Sunday. In his last four games, he's completed 38 of 46 (82.6) passes 431 yards, five touchdowns, one interception, and a 132.9 passer rating on those two downs.
Dave Spadaro breaks down Foles' ability to make plays when it matters most and shows what it does for the Eagles' offense:
"He's probably as calm as I've ever seen," Pederson said on Monday, prior to his day-after-game press conference. "Some people say that I'm calm, but inside I'm tore up, I'm nervous and getting ready to put the offense back out there for a game-winning drive, potentially. But he's just so calm and he's telling me, 'Just keep dialing 'em up and I'll find a completion.' That's what you do. The guy has made some great plays, whether it's on first down or third down or fourth down to win that game."
6. An Omen?
The NFL announced Monday afternoon that the double-doink that extended the Eagles' season in Chicago on Sunday was officially a blocked kick credited to defensive Eagles' tackle Treyvon Hester. Although it was hard to tell in real time, Hester was able to get his fingers high enough to tip the ball and possibly alter its trajectory in the Chicago win. It was the first blocked kick by an Eagle in postseason history. Chris McPherson has more interesting bits of information in the News and Notes from Sunday's win:
Quarterback Nick Foles conducted his second career fourth-quarter, game-winning drive in the postseason on Sunday. His first? Super Bowl LII in February. But the first such drive of his career came on December 9, 2012 in Tampa Bay. Down 21-16, Foles engineered a 13-play, 64-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin on the final play of the game. The play call? A sprint-out, very similar to the one that Foles executed on the 2-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate.
7. All Eyes On Us
The Eagles and Bears registered an historic overnight rating for NBC in Sunday's playoff game. The 22.9/40 rating was the best for any NFL Playoff Game on NBC since Sunday Night Football began in 2006. It was the best rating for a Wild Card game on NBC since a 23.3/41 for a John Elway-led Broncos and LA Raiders game on January 9, 1994.
8. Roster Move
The Eagles announced yesterday the signing of wide receiver Carlton Agudosi to a reserve/future contract. He will not have any effect on the Eagles' current roster in the playoffs but will be counted toward the 90-man roster next season.