Drew Brees and Michael Vick will lead frustrated teams on Monday night.
Two NFC teams in desperate need of a win will meet on Monday Night Football, when the New Orleans Saints host the Philadelphia Eagles tonight at 8:30pm EST on ESPN. New Orleans’ tumultuous offseason has morphed into a terrible start on the field, with the Saints standing at 2-5 after going 13-3 last year. The 3-4 Eagles have been filled with turmoil as well, with a fired defensive coordinator and a budding quarterback and head coach controversy topping the Philly headlines this season.
When the New Orleans Saints have the ball:
The New Orleans offense ranks fifth in yardage in the NFL, but that’s been solely because of Drew Brees and the aerial attack. The Saints average a league-best 316 passing yards per game, while putting up a league-worst 72.6 rushing yards per contest. Expect more of the same tonight, as Brees looks to spread the ball around to receivers Marques Colston and Lance Moore plus tight end Jimmy Graham. New Orleans will be without one key weapon, however, as Darren Sproles (second on the team in catches and third in receiving yards) will miss this game after having surgery on his broken left hand.
The Philadelphia defense has been pretty average in terms of yards and points allowed, but head coach Andy Reid felt the need to make a critical change at coordinator after six games. Juan Castillo was fired and replaced by secondary coach Todd Bowles, but the Falcons ran all over the Philly defenders in his debut last week. The key area for improvement with the Eagles will be in putting pressure on opposing signal callers, as Philadelphia has totaled only nine sacks and eight takeaways this season.
When the Philadelphia Eagles have the ball:
The Eagles offense centers on Michael Vick, and the controversial quarterback is now fighting to keep his job. Philadelphia ranks 28th in the NFL in scoring at 17.1 points per game, and Vick has turned the ball over 13 times (eight INTs and five fumbles lost) this season. The Eagles offensive line has been ravaged by injuries, and defenses are attacking accordingly. Vick has been sacked 20 times already, and his 78.6 passer rating ranks 25th in the league. It would help the embattled QB greatly if Philly could get more on the ground from LeSean McCoy, who had 17 rushing touchdowns a year ago but only two this season.
The New Orleans defense has simply been awful this season, ranking last in the league in yardage allowed (474.7 per game) and 30th in scoring (30.9). In fact, new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s group is the first defense since 1950 to allow 400-plus yards in seven consecutive games. Much like the Eagles, the Saints defenders have also struggled in generating turnovers and sacks. They will need to harass Vick tonight and force him to make the same mistakes that have defined the Philadelphia quarterback’s 2012 campaign.
There should be plenty of points scored in the Big Easy tonight, and this game will be decided by the more effective quarterback. Both Brees and Vick are coming off meager performances, and whoever bounces back to a higher level and plays well in the red zone will give his team a big advantage. This one looks to be a tossup between two squads with their backs to the NFL wall, and we’ll go with the home team by a field goal.
Saints 27 Eagles 24
---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)