The Eagles are just over 24 hours away from a must-win matchup with the Saints. The Mercedes Benz Superdome will be rocking and the pressure will be sitting heavy on the shoulders of the reigning champions as they stare down the barrel of one very explosive gun. If the Birds are to spring an upset, here are five matchups they need to win.
Sidney Jones vs Michael Thomas
The return of Sidney Jones could not come at a better time for the Eagles, who will once again be without both Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills on Sunday. Jones will play outside for the first time in his NFL career, exposing him to the rigors of being on an Island at the professional level for the first time. It doesn’t help that his opponent is arguably this year’s most dominant wide receiver, Michael Thomas. I broke down the matchup and its importance in much greater detail here:
Saints running backs vs Eagles run defense
The immovable object meets the unstoppable force this week as the 8th ranked Eagles run defense faces a Saints run-game that has ripped the league to shreds. Alvin Kamara has 123 rushes for 546 yards and 11 touchdowns, not to mention his 55 receptions for a further 473 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is of course supported by Mark Ingram, who is the perfect compliment to Kamara’s versatility and has proven to be a headache for defenses all season long.
The Eagles are fresh off of having their defense being brought back to earth by Zeke Elliott and if they have any chance of rising up the ranks once more, finding a way to marginalize the Saints offense is absolutely pivotal. If Brees has to pass the ball, it of course gives a lethal front four more chance at bringing him down or putting the laser-accurate vet under pressure. No matter how you look at it, the run defense has to be at its best on Sunday.
Eagles RT vs Cameron Jordan
It sounds like Lane Johnson will be good to go for Sunday after narrowly being named a game-time scratch last week, but if he isn’t, it will fall on the shoulders of Halapoulivaati Vaitai to hold up the right side of the line. Facing whichever lineman takes the field is one of the most underrated edge-rushers in the league, Cameron Jordan.
After tallying a startling 13 sacks last year, he is well on his way to do the same this year. If Johnson is starting, there’s a chance he could be less than 100%. If it’s Vaitai, the Eagles will undoubtedly give him some extra help in the way of chip blocks from Ertz and the running backs to lighten the load. This is advantageous for Jordan, but the Eagles have to ensure Wentz stays upright in what is poised to be one of the most thrilling shootouts of the year.
Golden Tate vs Saints secondary
Golden Tate wasn’t used anywhere near as much as Eagles fans would’ve liked against the Cowboys, but both Pederson and Groh have hinted that his lack of playing time won’t be a prominent theme moving forward. It’s just as well, considering that in four games against the Lions, Tate has tallied an average of 110 yards per matchup, catching 5 touchdowns in the process. If the Eagles can get creative and find new ways to get their new ‘running back who plays wide receiver’ toy on the field, then he could be the X-factor that the team have been sorely missing all season long. Wentz and the offense will have to move the chains with authority and Tate’s presence will go a long way in ensuring that happens.
Carson Wentz vs Drew Brees
The most important matchup of all sees two quarterbacks who are completing over 70% of their passes and have thrown less than 5 interceptions combined. Brees has been enjoying an MVP level season in New Orleans, ripping defenses apart as he did during that incredible Super Bowl run in 2011. Carson Wentz has taken a little while to rediscover his excellent 2017 form, but considering that he’s coming off of a torn ACL, the North Dakota State product has been absolutely incredible. The two gunslingers go at it with a flurry of playmakers at their side and with Wentz yet to close out a game, this shootout could go down to the wire and it could take a moment of greatness to secure the win. Can Wentz overthrow a future hall of famer when all the cards are stacked against him?