Saints vs. Eagles: Full Philadelphia Game Preview

Douglas J Miller@@seDougtiveFeatured ColumnistOctober 8, 2015

Saints vs. Eagles: Full Philadelphia Game Preview

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    Evan Habeeb/Getty Images

    The Philadelphia Eagles' season is quickly falling apart following last week's loss, and they need a win at home against the New Orleans Saints this Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

    Philadelphia is coming off a tough 23-20 loss to the division-rival Washington Redskins. Following the defeat, the Eagles now sit at the bottom of the NFC East with a 1-3 record and two divisional losses.

    The New Orleans Saints come to Philadelphia following their 26-20 home victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Drew Brees completed a short pass to running back C.J. Spiller that turned into an 80-yard touchdown run.

    Panic surrounded Philadelphia after their 0-2 start, only be temporarily disbanded by a win over the New York Jets in Week 3. However, following a loss to the Redskins, that doubt in the team and Chip Kelly has returned.

    Despite the recent loss, all hope is not lost for Philadelphia. The NFC East continues to struggle as a whole, and the Eagles are only one game behind the rest of the division. The Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Washington Redskins are all locked up with two wins and two losses.

    Here is all the info you need for Sunday afternoon's Week 5 game between the Eagles and Saints.

    Location: Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    Date: Sunday

    Time: 1 p.m. ET

    TV: Fox

Week 4 Results and Recap

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    The Eagles continue to struggle, as they failed to take care of business away from home against NFC East opponents the Washington Redskins.

    Philadelphia once again dug themselves a deep hole at the start of the game and trailed by 13 points at halftime. The Eagles mounted a comeback in the second half and took a four-point lead in the fourth quarter.

    However, Kirk Cousins led his second career fourth-quarter comeback with a 15-play, 90-yard scoring drive. Following the quarterback's four-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon, the Redskins held on to their three-point lead with 30 seconds left in the game.

    Prior to Cousin's game-winning drive, Sam Bradford orchestrated a furious flurry of touchdowns, as the Eagles scored 13 points in the third quarter and added another touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

    Philadelphia looked like a new team after halftime and came out firing. Bradford jump-started the offense with a 62-yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper. Then the defense forced a three-and-out to get the ball back to the surging offense. Bradford continued to take chances down the field and eventually found tight end Brent Celek for a touchdown, which tied the game at 13 points apiece.

    The defense held the Redskins to just a field goal in the third quarter, which gave Philadelphia's offense the chance to take the lead early in the fourth. Trailing by three points, Bradford hit Miles Austin in stride for a 39-yard touchdown pass to temporarily give the Eagles the lead.

    Unfortunately for Philadelphia, the offense failed to keep the ball and run down the clock on the next possession. The Eagles gave the ball back to the Redskins with plenty of time for Cousins to conduct his valiant comeback drive.

News and Notes

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Questions are flying fast and furious at Chip Kelly following Philadelphia's third defeat of the season, and the head coach is trying to remain calm and steady the ship.

    Kelly faced the press Monday afternoon following the team's 23-20 loss to the Washington Redskins. Following his first offseason with full control of personnel decisions, Kelly is facing questions for his decision to overhaul the roster this summer. Kelly deflected criticism by pointing out the narrow margins of the team's defeats.

    "You just keep practicing and you keep working on it and you trust the guys you have," said Kelly, according to PhillyVoice's Jimmy Kempski. "We know we have the right players here. We justit's a play here or a play there. We've lost a game by two and we've lost a game by three. We lost another game by 10; we've lost three games by 15 points." 

    Cody Parkey missed a fourth-quarter field goal in Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons, and the team lost by two points. This past week the Eagles lost by three, and new kicker Caleb Sturgis missed a field goal and an extra point. Kelly pointed out that with just a few more plays, the outlook of Philadelphia's season could be completely different.

    "You hit two kicks, and we are sitting here 3-1 and everybody's happy," Kelly said via Kempski. "There's no difference, it's that you either make plays or you don't make plays. And if you're not making plays, you have to continue to work on them so you can make the plays."

    With a struggling offense, Philadelphia needs to get as many points as it can on clear opportunities. Missed field goals do not only leave points on the board but also suck all momentum away from a team.

    Fans will continue to hold their collective breath when the kicking unit runs onto the field. Sturgis' career field-goal percentage is a modest 76.4 percent, and he has made less than half of his kicks from beyond 50 yards.

    Philadelphia needs more consistent production from its kicker to turn this season around.

Latest Injury News

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
    NamePositionInjury
    Kiko AlonsoLBKnee
    Brandon BairDEGroin
    Taylor HartDEShoulder
    Allen BarbreTGroin
    Mychal KendricksLBHamstring
    Byron MaxwellCBQuadriceps
    Lane JohnsonTKnee
    Jason PetersTQuadriceps
    Cedric ThorntonDEHand

    Philadelphia escaped training camp and preseason without significant injuries, but the injury bug has hit the Eagles hard since the start of the regular season.

    The Eagles started out about as poorly as possible on Sunday against the Redskins. Philadelphia's defense lost Mychal Kendricks, Byron Maxwell and Brandon Bair for the rest of the game due to injuries they sustained in the first quarter.

    “The hard part of the game, three first-quarter injuries are hard to absorb,” defensive coordinator Billy Davis said Tuesday, via ESPN.com's Phil Sheridan. “You don’t get those bodies back. We had each position group lose a player in the first quarter. That, in and of itself, put some strain on the [number of reps].”

    Looking forward to Week 5, Davis expects to have all of the injured defensive players back and able to play except for Kiko Alonso and Bair, according to CSN Philly's Reuben Frank.

    On the other side of the ball, the offensive line continues to suffer casualties as well. A week after the Eagles placed right guard Andrew Gardner on injured reserve, Jason Peters left the game against the Redskins with a quadriceps injury.

    As the offensive line ranks continue to thin, the players protecting Bradford may look a lot different than the personnel from Week 1. Peters, Lane Johnson and Allen Barbre all missed practice on Tuesday, according to Frank.

    Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News reported that Barbre returned to full practice on Wednesday, but Johnson remained a limited participant, while Peters did not participate at all.

    Philadelphia currently only features eight offensive lineman on the roster, so the injury situations of these delicate few could force Kelly to turn to his practice squad. The Eagles will likely be far from full strength against the Saints.

Key Matchup

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    The offensive line is one of the main reasons Philadelphia's offense has not lived up to expectations so far this season. As mentioned earlier, the line may continue to struggle as the injuries continue to pile up.

    Lane Johnson got banged up last week against the Washington Redskins but continues to fight for the team. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Zach Berman reported that Johnson is going to play against the New Orleans Saints this weekend despite his sprained MCL and sprained ankle.

    Johnson typically plays right tackle for Philadelphia, but with Peters unlikely to play due to injury, the Oklahoma product may shift over to the left side of the line.

    "It could be Lane at left tackle," Chip Kelly said, according to the News Journal's Martin Frank. "We've got a couple combinations we can work there. Today and tomorrow are our two big work days, then Friday and Saturday we'll take a look at where we are [if Peters can't play]."

    New Orleans comes into the game tied for 19th in the NFL with only seven sacks, but that could change this weekend. Rookie outside linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha is off to a great start, as he leads the team with 26 tackles and three sacks.

    Kikaha could be primed for a big day against Philadelphia as the Saints take on an offensive line that is depleted by injuries and has players shifting positions. The Eagles line has allowed free rushers into the face of Bradford more times than it would like this season. With all of the change, familiarity and cohesion could be at low points this week for Philadelphia.

    The Saints may not be a pass-rushing powerhouse but could take advantage of a struggling offense this weekend. New Orleans will likely dial up different blitz packages this weekend to give Kikaha and others free shots at Bradford.

    Philadelphia will need to adjust quickly to protect its quarterback and skill position players in the backfield this weekend.

Matchup X-Factor

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Philadelphia's only win of the season came when it committed to the running game with 38 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles may attack the Saints in a similar fashion to how they took down the New York Jets.

    New Orleans has given up the sixth-most rushing yards this season in the NFL, as opposing teams average just over 123 yards on the ground a game against the Saints.

    When the Saints come to Philadelphia, they will face off against one of their own, as Darren Sproles will play his former team for the first team since singing with the Eagles. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees commented on what it's like having Sproles as a teammate.

    "He's the epitome of what you would want in a teammate," Brees said about Sproles, via NJ.com's Matt Lombardo. "He's a stud. Sproles is one of my favorite people. He's one of my favorite teammates I've ever had. We've trained together every offseason for awhile now in San Diego. I'd say we push each other, but it's really me trying to keep up with him all the time. His work ethic is second to none, his focus, his intensity..." 

    Sproles comes into the game as one of Philadelphia's biggest playmakers. The tailback is second to Ryan Mathews in yards with 80 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Kelly utilizes Sproles in a variety of ways, as the Kansas State product also has 15 catches for 118 yards.

    This Sunday will be tense as Sproles faces his former coach and teammates. In an attempt to show the Saints what they are missing, watch for the playmaker to make a big play on offense or even take a punt back for a touchdown like he did against the Jets.

Prediction: Eagles 24, Saints 20

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Eagles have the best chance to win the NFC East at 39 percent, judging by ESPN's Football Power Index, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

    The Eagles will need to take care of business this weekend in order to not fall too far behind the rest of the division. Philadelphia showed promise in the second half last weekend against the Redskins.

    Sam Bradford finished the day 15-of-28 with 270 yards and three touchdowns. Although Bradford had success through the air, the Redskins hit him eight times. In order to finally get the offense clicking on all cylinders, Chip Kelly needs to maintain more of a balanced attack.

    With an offensive line in turmoil, a viable running game will take pressure off the blocker up front and limit damage on the quarterback. Bradford finally got the deep ball working against the Redskins with long touchdown passes to Riley Cooper and Miles Austin. An improved running game will keep the Saints defense honest and open up more passing options.

    Philadelphia's defense has been the surprise of the season. Billy Davis and his guys have worked hard to weather the storm while Kelly's offense sorts out its issues. A balanced running attack will allow Philadelphia's offense to remain on the field longer and give much-needed rest to their defense.

    Going against the sixth-worst rushing defense in the league, Philadelphia should finally be able to utilize its three-headed backfield monster. The Eagles will earn their first home victory of the season and stay in the race for the NFC East title.

    Prediction: Eagles 24, Saints 20