NFL fans will be overwhelmed by the first three divisional-round games before the Philadelphia Eagles kick off against the New Orleans Saints at 4:40 p.m. ET on Sunday.
The good news, though, is that this matchup contains enough star power on both teams to power everybody through—starting with two former Super Bowl MVPs in Saints quarterback Drew Brees (2009-10) and Nick Foles (2017-18).
While the Saints are the largest favorite in the divisional round and have already beaten the Eagles 48-7 in Week 11, significant changes have happened in Philly since then. The Eagles finished the regular season 5-1 after losing in New Orleans.
The most recent and significant momentum boost came on Wild Card Weekend, when the Chicago Bears improbably missed a 43-yard field goal with five seconds left.
ESPN's Adam Schefter laid out just how unlikely it was for Philadelphia to walk away from Chicago with a win:
It will be just as if not more improbable for the Eagles to knock off the NFC's No. 1 seed.
Odds (courtesy of OddsShark)
Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints (-8) | O/U 51.5
It would be easy to predict Brees will break yet another statistical NFL record, but it seems he has already broken all of them—or, more accurately, he broke four all-time records in the 2018 regular season.
So, instead, we'll focus on Brees' potential stats in the context of this specific game.
Against the Eagles in Week 11, Brees posted pristine numbers: 363 yards and four touchdowns on 22-of-30 passing. Brees did not throw a pick and was not sacked. Philly's offense is much different than the last time these teams played, but the defensive personnel has mostly been the same.
Since Week 12, according to CBSSports, Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas and Cre'Von LeBlanc in the secondary have kept opposing passers to 82-for-129 passing, 956 yards, three touchdowns and three picks for a combined passer rating of 84.0.
Brees at home in the Superdome will be the Eagles defense's biggest test, but they do have a chance to redeem their putrid Week 11 performance.
Prediction: Brees completes 30-of-40 passes for 320 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
Foles did not play spectacularly against the Bears in the Wild Card Round, but he did enough. He finished the game having completed 25 of his 40 passes for 266 yards, two touchdowns and two picks.
If Foles posted good-enough numbers against the regular season's third-best defense, what kind of magic can he pull against a middle-of-the-road unit?
Since taking over under center for an injured Carson Wentz—again—in Week 15, Foles has accumulated 1,228 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions on 112-of-153 passing (73.2 percent).
Prediction: Foles tosses for three touchdowns, two picks and 250 yards on 24-of-35 passing.
Thomas is Brees' No. 1 option, and it's not even close. The 25-year-old receiver finished the 2018 regular season with the most receptions of any receiver in the league (125) for 1,405 yards and nine touchdowns. The next closest? Running back Alvin Kamara, who had 81 catches and 709 yards in the air.
In Week 11, the Eagles held Thomas to just four catches on four targets, but those four receptions went for 92 yards and a touchdown. The leading pass-catcher in that game was rookie Tre'Quan Smith, who exploded for his best game of the season to the tune of 157 yards and one touchdown on 10 catches.
Thomas has shown up in big games for the Saints. In Week 9, Thomas went off for 211 yards on 12 catches—including the game-sealing touchdown that handed the Rams their first loss of the season and produced the celebration heard around the country.
Then in Week 16, Thomas hauled in 11 balls for 109 yards and a touchdown. It is probably not a coincidence that both of those games were at home in New Orleans, just like this one will be.
Prediction: Thomas catches 10 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown
Ertz has had a historical 2018. Most notably, the 28-year-old broke the NFL all-time record for regular-season receptions for a tight end with 116. Those 116 catches added up to 1,163 yards and eight touchdowns.
However, Ertz has seen a bit of a dip in production since Foles took over for Wentz. Foles has been spreading the ball around to between seven and 10 different receivers per game.
Regardless, Saints tight end Dan Arnold knows what kind of challenge his opponent presents.
Arnold told Nathan Brown of The New Orleans Advocate the following regarding Ertz: "If people roll down safeties and treat him more as a receiver, he's going to be able to beat them with length. On a linebacker, he's going to beat you with speed. No matter who it is, he has the advantage."
Prediction: Ertz is as reliable as ever for eight catches, 60 yards and a touchdown
Kamara started 2018 as one of the hottest playmakers in the league, but against the Eagles, he was kept out of the end zone and held to just 71 yards on 13 carries—5.5 yards per carry.
Kamara didn't score in four games between Nov. 18 and Dec. 17, when he ran in the Saints' only touchdown in a 12-9 loss to Carolina. Overall, he finished the regular season averaging 4.6 yards per carry.
Last weekend against the Bears, the Eagles defense contained Jordan Howard to 35 yards and Tarik Cohen to zero yards. The longest rushing play for Chicago was an end-around featuring wide receiver Taylor Gabriel.
Kamara's last appearance was in Week 16 against the Steelers, and while he had two rushing touchdowns, he only had 23 yards on the ground—exceeded by four catches and 82 yards in the passing game.
When predicting his statistics against the Eagles, receiving yards and scores may be more probable than rushing despite his position.
Prediction: Kamara is relatively contained for 50 yards and one touchdown on the ground but makes a dent with seven catches and 75 yards through the air
No Eagle has benefitted more from Foles' presence in the pocket than Alshon Jeffery.
Since Week 15, Jeffery has totaled 22 catches for 383 yards but only one touchdown. His production hasn't, as you can see, resulted in points, but it has undoubtedly opened up the Eagles attack.
This is a Saints defense that finished the regular season ranked 29th in pass defense. Steelers wide receivers Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster each went over 100 yards receiving against the Saints. Even when beating the Rams, wide receiver Brandin Cooks went for 114 yards.
In other words, Jeffery will have ample opportunity to make a dent downfield.
Prediction: Jeffery finishes with five catches—a couple big-yard catches—for 100 yards but no touchdowns