Eagles vs. Saints: 5 Matchups That Will Decide Monday Night Clash
The Saints are already teetering on the very edge of playoff relevancy, while the Eagles are three games back in the NFC East's win department and could see a major shakeup if they return to Philadelphia 3-5.
Suffice to say, there's a lot on the line for both clubs Monday night.
In the following slides, we break down the matchups that will likely decide which team gets their backs-to-the-wall win tonight.
Eagles CB Nnamdi Asomugha vs. Saints WR Marques Colston
An already difficult season continued for Asomugha in Week 8, as Julio Jones and the Falcons receivers abused the failing cornerback to the tune of six catches (on six targets) for 149 yards and one touchdown.
The physical matchup may be easier for Asomugha this week against the older, slower Colston, but the Saints top receiver has been far from a easy cover for inside corners this season.
Over his last four weeks, Colston has caught 30 passes for 420 yards and four touchdowns. Only Champ Bailey (five catches, 63 yards) has really handled Colston during that stretch.
Somehow, Asomugha needs to shake off the rust and replicate Bailey's effort Monday night.
Saints RB Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram vs. Eagles LBs
The Saints will be without Darren Sproles (hand) tonight, so the Eagles should see a steadier dose of Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram in the offensive backfield.
Potentially, no Sproles could also mean a bigger focus on running the football for the Saints, who currently rank dead last in the NFL in rushing yards a game. The complete lack of a running game has been one of the many faults of this football team in 2012.
One thing the Eagles cannot allow tonight is for the Saints to finally find some kind of identity on the ground.
Keeping quarterback Drew Brees as a one-dimensional player under 30 points will be hard enough; holding a multi-faceted Saints offense under that number would be a completely different task altogether.
Saints DL vs. Eagles QB Michael Vick
This it for Michael Vick. It's his final audition for his job as starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.
When it comes to produce-or-get-benched games, however, Vick couldn't ask for an easier task than shredding a Saints defense that is historically bad through the midway point in 2012. The New Orleans defense is last in yards allowed (474.7/game), 31st in passing yards (304.6/game), last in rushing yards (170.1/game) and 30th in points (30.9/game)
For the Saints to be competitive defensively in this game, it has to start up front.
Protection for Vick has been a major part of the Eagles struggles this season, but getting to the quarterback hasn't exactly been easy for New Orleans. The Saints have to take advantage along the defensive line to keep Vick and a bevy of playmakers in check. Another uninspiring effort will likely mean Vick is still starting for Philly come Week 10.
Saints CB Patrick Robinson vs. Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin
The coverage numbers for cornerback Patrick Robinson are scary from Pro Football Focus.
According to PFF, Robinson has allowed 33 catches for a whopping 578 yards (17.3 yards/catch) and three touchdowns this season. His passer rating against is 104.2.
The last two weeks have been especially poor. In games against the Denver Broncos and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Robinson has allowed 11 catches for 265 yards and two touchdowns with a passer rating above 130.0.
Expected to exploit that plus matchup with Robinson Monday night is Maclin, who dropped two big passes in Week 8 but still remains the Eagles most talented receiver overall. DeSean Jackson will get plenty of attention on the other side from Jabari Greer, but it's Maclin who could really hurt the Saints secondary Monday night.
Saints LBs vs. Eagles RB LeSean McCoy
Everything we need to know about this matchup comes via this line from Steve Palazzolo of PFF's "Three to Focus on Series" for Eagles-Saints:
Get your missed-tackle counter ready as running back LeSean McCoy goes up against a Saints defense that has missed 62 tackles on the season. That is, of course, assuming that McCoy gets the opportunity to run the ball. By way of a little hindsight-football analysis, the Eagles are 3-0 in games when he has at least 20 carries.
Tackling has been an obvious problem for New Orleans, but so has getting McCoy the football for Andy Reid. There's no more excuses for Reid tonight, especially considering the Saints are the worst rush defense in football right now.
If Reid feeds McCoy the football, letting him go to work on the NFL's worst defense in the process, it's hard to see the Eagles not scoring 30 or more points Monday night.