The first message, for those of you attending the game, is that you MUST print your tickets -- game tickets and parking tickets -- and please arrive at Lincoln Financial Field early. With fans bringing in extra blankets and clothing, the security process will take some extra time. Be in your seat for the 8:09 p.m. kickoff!!!
The weather? It's going to be cold, in the high teens or low 20s, and I just don't buy into the idea that it will adversely affect the Saints. What I do buy is that the crowd's energy can impact this game and provide a great home-crowd advantage for the Eagles.
The message all week has been to be loud, loud, loud when the Saints are on offense. It will really help against quarterback Drew Brees and his teammates.
- New Orleans doesn't have running back Pierre Thomas for the game, and that's a considerable loss for the Saints offense. Thomas led New Orleans with 549 rushing yards and he contributed 77 receptions to the passing game. Don't discount the talents, though, of Mark Ingram (4.9 yards per carry), Khiry Robinson (4.1) and Darren Sproles (4.2). Sean Payton will find ways to use both of those players.
"We kept five this year, which is unusual,'' said Payton. "We felt those five guys were really important to what we do. Each one of those guys has a different skill set. The versatility is important. That's one of the strengths of Pierre, his versatility both in the passing game and the running game and with regards to protections.''
- Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan talked this week about playing the Eagles' up-tempo offense and said his defense will be ready. Maybe he sprinkled some sarcasm into his answer, but that's just one man's opinion ...
"We'll be fine. We'll be ready to go. Nobody has practiced at a faster pace in tempo than us in the history of football," said Ryan. "I know they'll be faster than I've ever seen. But that's fine.'' Hmmm ...
- We've all spent a lot of time talking about tight end Jimmy Graham and the challenge he will be for the secondary. Certainly, the Eagles are going to have to have a great plan in place to slow him. But look out for rookie wide receiver Kenny Stills, too. He averaged 20 yards per catch and had 5 touchdowns on 32 receptions, and he has the speed to make big, big plays down the field.
- For whatever reason, I think the Eagles will try to get the tight ends really involved in the passing game tonight. The passing game needs to take advantage of a secondary that has absorbed some injuries this year, notably to cornerback Jabari Greer and safety Kenny Vaccaro. The latter was the team's second-leading tackler in the regular season prior to an injury that ended his year.
- New Orleans gets a lot of pressure off of the edge with pass rushers Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette, both of whom recorded 12 1/2 quarterback sacks this season. They get off the ball quickly and get up the field, which generally opens up some opportunities for the screen game. The art of deception from the Eagles offense will be huge tonight, as will the play of tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson.
- Can't wait to see what Chip Kelly does with wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who had a quiet last two games of the regular season. Jackson had just seven receptions for 57 yards and no touchdowns in the wins over Chicago and Dallas. Kelly has moved Jackson all around the rotation as defenses have focused on taking No. 10 out of the passing game. It would be a boost to get Jackson the football a time or two early in this game and open things up for the running game.
- Isn't it time for the kickoff return team to bust a big one? They may have the chance tonight. I like the idea of Brad Smith having the opportunity to bring back a kickoff. It could turn the game around.
- The Eagles need a big game from their safeties. Earl Wolff is questionable, and even if he plays he could be limited. Patrick Chung needs to play well, needs to be sound and has to make sure the Saints don't get deep in the passing game.