1. TURNOVERS – TURNOVERS – TURNOVERS
In any football game, turnovers are a key to winning—that much is obvious. But when facing the league’s most prolific offense, you can’t rely on consistently forcing punts.
The Saints offense didn’t punt once last week in their win over Cincinnati, and considering the frailty of the Birds secondary, we’re not about to reverse that trend. The only hope that the Eagles have of keeping Brees and company under 40 points is by cutting a few possessions short with an interception or fumble.
The bad news of course, is that this team is at the bottom of the league in terms of takeaways. On the year they’ve recorded just four interceptions and recovered three fumbles. For context, only two teams—the Bucs and 49ers—have less than those seven takeaways.
The Birds secondary simply isn’t good enough to create turnovers out of good coverage, so the burden of creating chaos will rely on the team’s front seven. While the defensive line doesn’t have the same ferocity as last season, they’ll need to return to that elite form if they want any hope of forcing Brees (21 TDs to 1 INT on the season) into making mistakes.
2. Start fast
You don’t want to play from behind in any football game, but when you’re facing the league’s best running game in one of the toughest road environments in the league, that becomes all the more vital.
The Saints defense is vulnerable at all three levels. As long as the game remains close, Wentz and Pederson will be able to attack them however they please, and will likely find success. But if the Saints take an early lead, their pass rush has the talent to put pressure on a Birds offensive line that hasn’t exactly been stoudt in the face of obvious passing situations.
Even if the team were playing the Bills, this should be a priority for the Eagles. The team scored just three first half points last week at home, and currently ranks dead last in the NFL for points scored in the first quarter (2.3).
If the Eagles fall behind more than a touchdown early in the game you can pretty much chalk this up as a loss—if you haven’t already.
3. For the love of god, RUN THE BALL
I’m not saying this because I want a 50-50 balanced offense, nor do I even have much confidence in our running game. I’m simply trying to explicate the importance of possessing the football in this matchup.
While I mentioned forcing turnovers as the only way to keep the Saints in check, another way to accomplish this is by keeping him off the field altogether. It comes back to the clichéd adage that the best defense is good offense.
Contrary to his predecessor, Doug Pederson has been committed to winning time of possession. However, despite still being generally strong in that area this season, the team’s occasional inability to run the ball has proved devastating in this regard.
To be honest, I don’t know who is more annoying, the people who beg for us to run the ball more—as if it’s the answer to all our problems—or the people who mock that idea—as if throwing the ball 50 times a game has ever been a winning game plan.
I’m going to keep it short and sweet when I say this: if the Eagles and Doug Pederson chose to abandon the running game once again, the score will likely end up being something like 62-35. And the blame will incorrectly fall on Jim Schwartz, when it should be on “the genius” head coach.