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The Numbers Show This Is Not The Same Eagles-Saints Matchup

With a heart-stopping win in Chicago, the Eagles will now move on to face the top-seeded 13-3 New Orleans Saints in the imposing Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday. These two teams faced off in that same building earlier this season. Well, sort of same teams.

The Eagles' 48-7 loss to the Saints in Week 11 may be the most significant result of the season. It was a game so one-sided that it easily could have broken a team with less leadership and experience. The Eagles fell to 4-6 and were completely embarrassed on a national stage.

But they didn't let that one result deter them. Eagles players have said that they used that game as motivation and as a moment to come together instead of split apart. Head coach Doug Pederson noted it as an accomplishment of the 2018 season to look back upon if they were unable to make the playoffs.

"Guys really hung together," Pederson told reporters on December 28. "It could have spiraled at that point and it didn't. I think that's the one thing that I'm the most proud of coming out of this season right now. Just looking at that moment and how things went positive for us instead of the other way."

The Eagles trended so positively after that point that they won six of their next seven games, including Sunday's Wild Card clash, and knocked off three division winners in the process. Three of those wins were on the road and the one loss came in an overtime game in Dallas where the bounces just didn't go the Eagles' way.

From 4-6 to 10-7 and in the Divisional Round, the Eagles feel like they are not the same team that played in New Orleans weeks ago. Even from a personnel standpoint, they have a different quarterback on a hot streak and several key pieces who have returned and created undeniable chemistry at certain position groups.

"I think you just have to look at where we've come and what we've done," Pederson said Monday in his press conference following the Eagles' Wild Card win. "Just the way this team has come together at the end of the season, to be counted out with even about three games to go and we had to go on really, had to win our last three regular-season games, even to be into the postseason, needed a little bit of help.

"But this team believes. This team believes in everything that we're doing, and you saw it (Sunday) and we're different. 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."

Let's look at the numbers.

In the Eagles' first 10 games, the offense averaged 257 yards per game and a completed 68.8 percent of passes. Foles and Carson Wentz combined for a passer rating of 95.7 and the Eagles gave up 31 sacks, good for 3.1 sacks per game.

In their 6-1 run, the Eagles average 280.4 yards per game with a 71.7 percent completion rating and a passer rating of 104.8. They gave up 10 total sacks (1.4 per game) and did not allow defensive stars Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt, and Khalil Mack to account for any.

The Eagles had 16 total offensive touchdowns in their first 10 games and had 15 in their last seven. They went from averaging 20.5 points per game to 25.4.

Nick Foles has been the quarterback for four of the seven games in that stretch. He believes the change is the culmination of a lot of hard work.

"You know, it's just been the course of the year," Foles said after Sunday's win. "Just finding the DNA of the team. We've gone through a lot as a team and we've continued to stick together, everyone at the NovaCare facility just keeps believing in one another and it just takes time. I think the big thing is it's about relationships."

Defensively, the Eagles made drastic improvements in stopping the run, changing their rushing yards given up per game from 101.4 to 86 despite facing rushers like Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Adrian Peterson, Todd Gurley, and Tarik Cohen in their last seven games.

A once revolving-door secondary has solidified to force six interceptions in seven games after having just four in 10 games. Opponents' passer ratings dropped from 97.9 to 86.6 in that time.

Even the Saints' historically good offense has taken a sustained dip.

In Weeks 13-16 (discounting Week 17 when the Saints sat their starters), New Orleans' scored 20.3 points per game and were held to fewer than 20 points in three of those contests. In their first 11 games (in which they won 10) they averaged 37.2 points per game.

The Saints' passing completion percentage fell from a ridiculous 75.8 in 11 games with an absurd passer rating of 126.3 to a 68.7 completion percentage and an above-average 83.7 passer rating.

Brees had an impressive 29 touchdowns and two interceptions in his first 11 games. In his last four, he has three touchdowns and four interceptions. Brees was sacked just 11 times in his first 11 games. He's been sacked seven times in four games since.

Knocking off the NFC South Champions in the thunderously loud Superdome will be no easy task. Despite a slight dip in the offensive statistics over the last four games leading up to Week 17, the Saints still found a way to win three of them and one by two possessions.

But make no mistake. The Eagles are playing differently as shown by the statistics and the attitude of the football team. They don't plan to make the same mistakes as in Week 11 and don't see the game ending the same way.

"We'll take a look at that film. We'll take a look at this one," Pederson said Sunday night in Chicago. "I think we're a different football team now than we were then, and you know, we've just got to put a good plan together in all three phases, and you know, go back down there.

"We're on the road. It's going to be in a dome. It's going to be loud again, all those things. It's going to be a great atmosphere."

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