From this point on, the New Orleans Saints must remain undefeated these last couple of games while they need some help from divisional foes to make it into the playoffs. To stay on the winning track, the Black and Gold will travel to Pennsylvania to play the Eagles, currently ranked the number one seed in the NFC. Here are five things to look out for:
1) HEALTH OF JALEN HURTS:
We’ve seen Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts play at an MVP level all season long to lead Philadelphia to a 12-2 record with him as the starter. He is currently dealing with a shoulder injury that kept him out in last week’s contest against the Dallas Cowboys and is listed as doubtful. Gardner Minshew threw for over 350 yards and multiple touchdowns in that game. Whoever is under center on Sunday for the Eagles, the defense of the Saints will have their hands full because the two signal callers have different styles of play, yet there doesn’t seem to be much of a drop-off in terms of offensive production.
2) DEVELOPMENT OF YOUNG TALENT:
Whether the Black and Gold make the playoffs or not, the regular season is nearing an end. At this point, Dennis Allen and the rest of this coaching staff need to continue to develop and make sure there is plenty of playing time. We’ve seen Chris Olave, Juwan Johnson, and Rashid Shaheed on offense really blossom while on defense Pete Werner, Alontae Taylor, and Kaden Ellis have really started to make a name for themselves. These players and others finishing the season on a high note will make you as a fan feel better knowing there is still plenty of young talent that the Saints could build around.
3) BOUNCING BACK:
Last week in Cleveland, New Orleans found themselves in a 10-0 deficit late in the second quarter. The Saints were able to overcome that obstacle and eventually win. The Philadelphia Eagles are a different and much better team than the Browns. If the Black and Gold go down at least two scores down to Philly, it’ll be much more difficult as the Eagles don’t beat themselves as they are second in the league in turnover differential at +9. New Orleans needs to clean the game close throughout the contest if they want their best chance of upsetting the Eagles and potentially still be alive once week 18 rolls around.
4) WHO STEPS UP:
It has been well documented that the New Orleans Saints fill out the injury report week in and week out. This week is no different for them with major pieces showing up on the report like Alvin Kamara, Marcus Maye, Andrus Peat, and Marshon Lattimore. The Eagles’ injury report however mentions quite a few key players as well including Lane Johnson, Miles Sanders, A.J. Brown, Fletcher Cox, and others. Most of these players will still suit up, but how effective will they be in the game? Then, for those who will be out, who will step up in their place and make an impact?
5) STOPPING THE RUN:
The defense of the Saints this year hasn’t been as good at stopping the run as they have in previous years. Even in those previous seasons, since Hurts became the starting quarterback for the Eagles, New Orleans has really struggled to slow down their ground attack. In 2020, Philly rushed for 246 yards on 36 carries and a couple of touchdowns. Then last year, the Eagles ran the ball 50 times for 242 and scored three times on the ground. If Hurts doesn’t play on Sunday, the Saints have a slightly better chance but either way, they’ll have their hands full trying to shut down a team that has had their number recently.
Kickoff in Philadelphia is scheduled for Sunday, January 1st at 12:00 p.m.