NFL Wild Card Picks: Why Nick Foles, Eagles Will Freeze the Saints

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NFL Wild Card Picks: Why Nick Foles, Eagles Will Freeze the Saints
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Nick Foles: Small experience, veteran numbers

It's rookie vs. veteran at quarterback this weekend in Philadelphia.

But purely looking at the statistics, you'd think it was veteran vs. veteran.

Second-year quarterback Nick Foles (27 TDs, 2 INTs and a 119.2 rating) takes on Drew Brees (39 TDs, 12 INTs and a 104.7 rating) in one of four wild-card games this weekend—but the only game where the road team is a dome team travelling to the great outdoors.

Will the Saints' offense be able to stand the propensity of January northeast weather conditions?

We've seen dome teams and warm weather teams do it before.

After all, Tampa Bay ended its 0-21 losing streak in minus-40 degree weather when they won at Chicago and Philadelphia in the 2002-2003 playoffs (they eventually won the Super Bowl).

The Falcons shocked the Packers at Green Bay in 2002 with a 27-7 wild-card win as a six-point underdog.

Peyton Manning won at Baltimore on the way to the 2006-07 Super Bowl.

The one difference between those three teams and this year's Saints, is road performance.  Those teams didn't have a losing road record during the regular season, while the Saints were 3-5 on the road in 2013.

Additionally, the Saints will be at the beginning of a rough creek and swimming upstream with three guaranteed road games between them and the Super Bowl.

The have the quarterback to do it, as Drew Brees' 5,162 passing yards are superior to Nick Foles' 2,891 yards.  Keep in mind, though, Foles only started 10 games.

What Foles lacks in the passing game (albeit not much), the Eagles make up for it with rushing yards.  Led by LeSean McCoy, they are ranked first in the league with 160 yards per game, which is 68 yards more than the Saints average.

A strong running game might have an advantage when the game is played outdoors in cold or windy weather where the ball is just a little harder to grip and throw.

The Saints have a pair of capable running backs in Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas, and both caught over 70 passes this season.

Will the backs and star tight end Jimmy Grahamarguably the best in the league at his positioncreate a problem for the Eagles defense?  The unit contained Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Jason Witten well enough to win all four of those games.

So the answer is no.

Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Drew Brees is the only QB in history with two 5,000-yard seasons.

While Drew Brees and Sean Payton share a Super Bowl ring and seven seasons together, this will be the first playoff game for both Nick Foles and Chip Kelly. 

But after clinching a playoff berth last week, it's fair to say it feels like the second.

It also seems like they've been around this block more than once.

If winning at Dallas in front of Jerry Jones in what had the feeling, implications and atmosphere of a playoff game wasn't enough, Chip Kelly and the Eagles also surprised the Bears in a game they didn't need to win.

And considering they will be watching this game on television, the Bears did.

While Foles shook off a slow start to his season and rebounded to put up efficient numbers like a superstar, Chip Kelly overcame similar adversity when the Eagles were left for dead with a 3-5 record.

Perhaps it was the game plan.  Or maybe it was the little things.

His road trip policy, which includes arriving the night before a game instead of the typical 48 hours, helped the Eagles focus and produce a 5-1 road record since the loss at Denver.  Such travel habits can have a huge implication on players who are essentially millionaires in their 20s with money to spend on road trips.

But arriving the night before decreases this opportunity to run wild, and it increases focus on the actual game to be played.

In just his first season as a NFL head coach, Chip Kelly has been doing things that veteran coaches haven't yet figured out in today's day and age.

In December's article about the Lions-Eagles game, I outlined reasons why the Eagles would "ice" the Lions since Detroit was a dome team which had trouble in cold weather over the last decade.

It might not be a snowstorm like it was on December 8, but it won't be 70 degrees and windless like the New Orleans Superdome either.

Realistically, the Saints have the offensive firepower and talent on defense to win any game regardless of weather conditions, but they'll be up against an energized 12th man in Philadelphia.

Whatill be the result of this game?

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The Eagles couldn't get it done at home against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the 2010-11 playoffs with Michael Vick and Andy Reid, but they'll have a second chance with a new quarterback and a new coach.

When asked about the upcoming cold weather and what it meant for the Saints, Sean Payton joked that he changed the team's snack and flavor of Gatorade this week.

Compared to Chip Kelly, who totally revamped the team's cafeteria since training camp, he's a day late and a dollar short.

After this weekend, he may be a few degrees short as well.

Take Philadelphia (-2.5) over New Orleans

Point spreads courtesy of www.scoresandodds.com

 

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