The New Orleans Saints who went 13-3, placed first in the NFC South, and went to the divisional round of the playoffs last season is a 2-5 shell of itself this year. They started the season with a four-week losing streak to the Washington Redskins, Carolina Panthers, Kansas City Chiefs, and Green Bay Packers.
Since then, they have won two of their last three games, but they are heading into Monday Night Football with a 34-14 loss to the Denver Broncos. In their loss against Denver, their defense, which ranks in the bottom of the league this season, caved in and gave up the game, illustrating one of the many records proving that the Saints are not the team they were last season, and the Eagles can come out with a win in the game, if they institute the appropriate gameplan.
1. Attack the weaknesses on the defense:
“Bountygate” has noticeably weakened their defense, which is giving up an average of 474.7 yards per game, ranking last in the league in that category. They also rank 31st in total yards allowed to opponents, and, in their last outing, they lost 34-14 after blowing a lead to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, who scored 27 unanswered points to steal the game from the Saints.
Their 30th ranked passing defense, along with their 31st ranked rushing defense, has given up at least 400 yards in seven consecutive games and are coming off a two-game stretch in which they have given up more than 500 yards — 513 yards (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and 530 yards (Denver Broncos) — in the past two weeks. The disparity lies in the average points per game, however, where the Saints are a sixth ranked 27.1 against the Eagles 17.1. If they Eagles can effectively attack the weaknesses in the defense, though, they can level the field.
2. Stop Drew Brees:
If the Eagles can effectively attack the Saints’ defense, their main issue then lies in stopping Drew Brees, who continues to set NFL records. His 50 consecutive games with a touchdown, along with 301 passing touchdowns surpassing John Elway for sixth most of all time last week, is re-defining the quarterback position. The Saints’ running game, on the other hand, ranks last in the league (72.6 yards per game) and is falling woefully short. The last time the Saints put up more than 100 yards rushing was during their Week 2 matchup against the Carolina Panthers, so shutting down Brees is important.
Last week, the Devner Broncos held Brees to a season-low 201 passing yards, and the Eagles will need to do something similar to defeat the Saints. The situation in the Eagles’ secondary, however, has been made more problematic after safety Nate Allen was ruled out of Sunday’s game, and David Sims will make the start. The Eagles have allowed five receivers to have 100-yard performances this season in seven games, so they will have to hope for a quick turnaround.
3. Allow LeSean McCoy to Set the Tone on the Offense:
The Eagles are 7-1 over the last two seasons and 2-0 this season when LeSean McCoy runs for more than 100 yards in a game. Can someone please pass that news to Andy Reid & Co.? McCoy gets neglected at the beginning of games as his attempts tend to increase as the quarters pass, and he gets the most snaps in the fourth quarter. Coincidentally, though, the Eagles also score their most points in the fourth quarter, and their points occur most frequently in fourth quarters (notice a pattern?).
The Eagles have scored only seven — yes, seven — points in the first quarter, where their opponents have scored 40 points. The Eagles need to get the ground game rolling in the beginning of the games to control the time of possession. Thus, for the Eagles to be successful, McCoy needs to impact the game from the beginning.
4. If Michael Vick struggles, bench him for Nick Foles:
Vick has struggled throughout the first seven games of the season, and his struggles are a significant contributor to the Eagles problematic start to the season. His turnovers almost single-handedly sabotaged the losses against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions, the start of the Eagles three-game skid, and his awareness of the field is noticeably lacking. The 2010 Vick who dazzled the league until that Tuesday night matchup against the Minnesota Vikings seems almost no longer with the team and on life support.
He has turnovers in five of the seven games this season, and is on course to have more turnovers than he had last season. Opposing defenses have figured him out, and, in response, the offense is floundering. Andy Reid may need a scapegoat if he wants to keep his coaching job if the Eagles continue to lose. So, if Vick comes into the game forceless, send in Nick Foles.
5. Get Pressure — Or, Better Yet, Sacks — On the Quarterback:
This year, the Eagles have nine sacks, ranked 31st in the league and ahead of only the Jacksonville Jaguars’ seven sacks. The Eagles leading sacker is Jason Babin — with 2.5 sacks. Trent Cole has 1.5 sacks. Last season, the two ends combined for 29 of the Eagles’ 50 sacks, so, with the two contributing 4 sacks combined this season, they need to drastically increase their production.
Jason Babin saw his snaps decrease in last week’s game as Brandon Graham seems is becoming more favored. How long will the trend continue? The Saints are ranked last in the league in rushing yards but 1st in the league in passing yards, so they can be expected to be a one-dimensional team, especially considering they will be without Darren Sproles. Thus, if the Eagles can get pressure on Brees and limit the time he has to pick apart the Eagles’ questionable secondary, the Eagles will obtain their greatest advantage against the Saints' offense. Getting pressure from the front four is necessary.