The New Orleans Saints (11-5) are on the road for a Wild Card Round matchup against NFC East champ Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) on Saturday, Jan. 4, at 8:10 p.m. ET.
While many on the East Coast are being hit with freezing temperatures and heavy snow, weather is not expected to be a factor in this upcoming game.
Light snow is expected to fall in the two days leading up to the contest, but zero precipitation is expected on game day, and the temperatures should be in the 20s, as noted by Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune:
While New Orleans comes into the playoffs with a better overall record, the Saints weren't strong on the road in 2013, going 3-5. On the other side, Philly got hot at home during the second half of the season, winning its last four games to close out the year.
Saints right tackle Zach Strief addressed the perception that New Orleans will be a heavy underdog because of the team's poor road record, via Duncan: "We know we're going to hear all week how we can't do this. (But) I like our chances. I like the feeling that no one expects you to win. I like putting this team in that position."
Oftentimes, regular-season trends are shattered during postseason play. It's going to be fascinating to watch this matchup unfold, as both teams will go for broke in this upcoming Wild Card game.
Here's a look at when and where you can catch the action:
When: Saturday, Jan. 4, at 8:10 p.m. ET
Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa.
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Betting Lines (via Covers)
- Over/Under: 53.5 points
- Spread: Philadelphia (-2.5)
Will Drew Brees Overcome His 2013 Road-Game Demons?
It's well documented that Saints quarterback Drew Brees wasn't sharp during road games this regular season. Leading his team to just three wins away from the dome in eight tries, Brees hasn't been able to generate much in the way of scoring offense, as pointed out by Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus:
During the 2013 season, the future Hall of Famer threw 12 touchdown passes and nine interceptions, completing 64 percent of his passes on the road. Those aren't terrible numbers, but they haven't been good enough to generate a winning record, either.
And this isn't a new issue.
Scott Pianowski of Yahoo! Sports points out Brees has never won a road playoff game in his career:
Of course, it hasn't helped his cause that the Saints have been atrocious on the defensive side of the ball during those contests, as ESPN's Numbers Never Lie alluded to:
If ever there was a decent opportunity for Brees to break out of his road slump, however, this weekend's game against Philadelphia takes the cake. No team gave up more passing yards than Philly did in 2013, allowing 289.8 yards per game through the air.
For his part, Brees is treating the postseason as a chance to begin anew, as Gary Estwick of the Daily News reported:
Playoffs kind of mark the start of a new season, a new opportunity. As the sixth seed, you understand that the road you travel is going to be on the road, so you have no other choice. We know what we are capable of, so now it's a matter of putting it all together.
Should Brees find a way to put it all together with his offensive teammates, then the Saints will have a chance to finally win a road playoff game under Sean Payton.
Philadelphia has been scorching hot during the second half of the season, going 7-1 while closing out the year on a two-game winning streak. The lone loss to Minnesota was a wake-up call that Chip Kelly's team took to heart.
Momentum matters, and New Orleans can't match Philly in that department right now.
Losing two of their last three games, the Saints limped into the playoffs, and it's difficult to trust this team against the Eagles. Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey elaborates:
I can't trust the Saints on the road, especially if weather could be anything less than perfect in Philadelphia. Brees and co. just haven't found that rhythm late in the season and still have holes to plug on both sides of the ball before I can pick them in a road playoff game against another high-flying offense.
Rob Ryan has done a fantastic job getting the Saints to play solid defense this past season, but the high-flying Eagles will move the ball all over the field at home.
Utilizing a heavy dose of LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown and a sprinkling of Chris Polk, Kelly's offense will wear down the Saints in the trenches, opening up big plays downfield on play-action passes.
Nick Foles has been brilliant since taking over during the season, and he rarely makes costly mistakes. This game will be Philadelphia's from start to finish, as the Eagles will advance into the NFC's Divisional Round with a clutch win in front of the home crowd.
Eagles win, 33-28.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78