The New Orleans Saints have opened as an early 9 and a ½ favorite over the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles for this upcoming Sunday’s NFC Divisional Playoff game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome; and already many Eagles supporters have gotten very upset at the odds-makers out in Las Vegas for having their team as such a huge “underdog”.
As a result, there are already a handful of narratives now being espoused by both the National Media and the local media in the Philadelphia area, regarding the alleged disrespect being thrown in the Eagles’ direction by most Saints fans as well as some of the Saints players themselves, including 2nd year RB Alvin Kamara ― who New Jersey-Star Ledger Eagles writer Josh Rosenblatt says was “talking trash” before and after the Saints’ 48-7 whipping over them two months ago.
As many Saints fans are likely aware: the Black and Gold MANHANDLED Philly back in their Week #11 meeting at the Superdome on November 18th of the past year, beating them by 41 points.
Many of the Eagles players now say that they felt the Saints were running up the score, but the honest truth was that it simply was an abysmal performance by Philly on both sides of the ball.
And while the Eagles have in fact won 6 of their past 7 games and have rallied around the performance of veteran QB Nick Foles for a 2nd straight post-season, the fact remains that New Orleans is rested, healthy and has a huge home-field advantage at the Superdome ― which undoubtedly has a huge part in how the Vegas odds-sharks have decided to handicap this upcoming Sunday’s contest.
The Saints went (7-1) at home this season, and additionally they had a league-high 22 touchdown passes (tied with the Los Angeles Rams) in games played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
And it’s that particular stat which one would have to reasonably believe is the actual #1 reason why the Eagles are still such a big “underdog” this coming Sunday: having to face Drew Brees AT HOME, in a Playoff game that the Saints have been waiting to win for the past year.
Last night at Chicago, 2nd year Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky threw for 302 yards against the Philly secondary, which clearly has seen its share of “ups and downs” in the past several weeks.
And now that same Eagles team that went (4-4) on the road in the recently-completed 2018 NFL Regular Season, and who only managed to outscore opponents by two whole points in all of those games combined, now have to make a return trip to NOLA to face one of the most feared and respected QB’s of his generation.
In complete fairness to the Eagles secondary, that first meeting back in mid-November saw them being forced to piece together their defensive backfield because of injuries, and Brees very clearly took full advantage.
The Eagles were forced to give significant playing time to undrafted free agent veterans De’Vante Bausby and Chandon Sullivan at cornerback, and Brees lit them up to the tune of 22 out of 30 pass attempts for 363 yards and 4 TD passes; and a near-perfect passer rating of 153.2.
However, neither of those two players are with the Eagles any longer, and the current configuration of the Eagles secondary now has top-notch rookie Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas and Cre’Von LeBlanc manning the top-three spots on their depth chart, and collectively they’ve brought a sense of stability to the Philly secondary.
Their presence led directly to the Eagles’ improvement on that side of the ball and certainly played a key factor in Philly’s resurgence; but one thing that still remains the same for this upcoming Sunday: the player wearing #9 in the Black and Gold, will still be under center for New Orleans.
Brees led the NFL in completion rate (74,4 percent) and threw for 3,992 yards, 32 touchdowns and a career-low 5 interceptions, which the folks over at Pro Football Focus noted made him the second-most valuable passer of the 2018 NFL season.
And as noted by New Orleans Times-Picayune / NOLA.com beat writer Luke Johnson on Twitter: New Orleans is (5-0) inside of the Superdome with Brees at QB in the NFC Playoffs; and has thrown for 12 TD’s to only ONE interception in that entire time.
The Saints are 5-0 with Drew Brees as their QB in playoff games at the Superdome. In those five games, Brees has thrown 12 TDs against 1 INT and has a 116.8 passer rating.
— Luke Johnson (@ByLukeJohnson) January 7, 2019
That ― and not some other imagined reason such as “disrespect” ― is the main reason why the Eagles are considered to be such huge “underdogs” in Sunday’s upcoming Divisional Playoff showdown.
And if Philly hopes to have a much different result than the one that they got two months ago, then they’ll need to figure out a way to silence both Brees and a boisterous sold-out, fanatical Superdome home crowd.
As a result of their win yesterday night, Philadelphia actually had a hand in making themselves the “underdogs” in this contest, since the Saints actually saw their Super Bowl odds improve from 22% to 27% percent out of the 8 remaining Playoff teams.
Playing them and NOT the Dallas Cowboys provided New Orleans with an opponent that the Vegas odds-makers perceive to be a much weaker opponent.
Whether or not that’s actually the case or not, will likely be determined this Sunday to be sure (the Cowboys will be in Los Angeles to face the Rams in the other NFC Divisional Playoff game).