Eagles vs. Saints: Full Preview, Predictions & Analysis for Monday Night Football

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Eagles vs. Saints: Full Preview, Predictions & Analysis for Monday Night Football
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Two struggling NFC teams face off on Monday Night Football as Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles head down to New Orleans to take on Drew Brees and the Saints.

The Eagles (3-4) have disappointed this season, but a bare look at their stats reveals a team that should be just fine. The offense can move the ball through the air and on the ground, and the defense is vastly improved from 2011.

A closer look, however, reveals a mistake-prone team with little to no blocking up front. What looks like a solid team is built around a crumbling foundation that could be ready to collapse.

The Saints (2-5) have already collapsed this season. They were so busy telling us (and one another) that "Bountygate" wouldn't effect their season that they lost their first four games. Since then, they boast wins against Tampa Bay and San Diego but couldn't defeat Peyton Manning at home (no easy feat). If they want to rebuild and get their season back on track, they need a win here.

So which team wins on Monday night?

 

Key Storyline No. 1: Who's up Next for the Eagles?

So, the Eagles fired Juan Castillo because their defense, which was horrible last year, was only sorta good in 2012. That made almost as little sense as hiring the former offensive line coach in the first place.

The problem is, the Eagles aren't any better. Firing Castillo doesn't help Andy Reid make better late-game decisions. It doesn't help Michael Vick hold onto the ball. It doesn't help the interior offensive linemen block any better. It doesn't heal Jason Peters' Achilles' tendon.

If the Eagles don't win this game, who's next—Marty Mornhinweg? Bob April? Howard Mudd? Just a few years ago, that group looked like an all-star coaching squad. Now, any one of them could be the next sacrificial lamb.

Sadly, Reid still looks bulletproof, and Vick has his vote of confidence.

 

Key Storyline No. 2: Can 2012 Be Salvaged for the Saints?

To some extent, this is where the rubber meets the road for the Saints. At 2-5 and with a huge game against the Atlanta Falcons next week followed by games against the San Francisco 49ers, the New York Giants and the Falcons again, they don't have much time to right the ship.

The Eagles are an immensely beatable team—just ask the Detroit Lions and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were able to sort out a lot of their problems against Reid's crew.

The Saints have all the tools, but if they're going to make any noise (other than a sickening thud) in 2012, they need to win on Monday night and start winning a lot more going forward.

 

Keys for the Philadelphia Eagles

It's ball control, stupid!

Honestly, is there any other way to talk about the Eagles than the fumbles and interceptions that Vick and company have coughed up this season? Any team can beat the Eagles when they're plus-2 or better in the turnover game—literally any team.

Who Wins on Monday Night?

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Schematically speaking, the Eagles need to get the ball out more quickly than they have been. The Saints are not a devastating pass-rush team, but they have talented players who can get to Vick, and if they do, they will likely end up with the ball in their hands.

Forget the long downfield bombs; worry about hitting Jeremy Maclin or Brent Celek in the five- to 10-yard range and moving the chains and running the ball with LeSean "Shady" McCoy.

The time has come to start game-planning around McCoy rather than Vick. Does Reid have the conviction to do that? Maybe not, but it's the only way the Eagles are going to win.

 

Keys for the New Orleans Saints

The Saints actually match up very well in this one because the Eagles have had trouble getting to quarterbacks all season long. If Drew Brees can sit back and pick apart the Eagles secondary—a chore that is much easier than it should be—the Saints should win this one big.

Another big plus for the Saints is their running back corps. Honestly, we don't think of the Saints as a running team, but they have a lot of talent, and the Eagles' Wide 9 defensive front is going to leave the interior open for traps and draws. Expect Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas to be given extra carries to offset the loss of Darren Sproles.

Perhaps, the biggest weapon, however, is Jimmy Graham. While the Eagles' safeties have matured and improved this season, they simply cannot match up with the former basketball star. The Eagles haven't been able to shut down athletic tight ends all season, and Graham should have a big night.

 

Bold Prediction: Nick Foles Will Score a Touchdown

Maybe it's at halftime, maybe it's at the end of the game, but Vick will get pulled if he isn't playing a good game. Because of that, my bold prediction this week is that Foles will come into the game and start a QB controversy by scoring a meaningless touchdown.

 

Player of the Game Prediction: Jimmy Graham

As I said before, Graham is a walking matchup nightmare, and he's just starting to get going in 2012. Expect Brees to target him 10 or more times and Graham to convert those into a chunk of yardage. A multi-touchdown game isn't out of the question.

 

Final Score Prediction: New Orleans Saints 27; Philadelphia Eagles 23

 

Michael Schottey is the NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff alongside other great writers at "The Go Route."

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