MNF Preview: Eagles v. Saints

USATSI_7654639_154224518_lowresThe New Orleans Saints haven’t been in this position in quite some time. Currently sitting at 2-5, this is the team’s worst start in the Drew Brees era after finishing with the franchise’s best regular season ever with a 13-3 mark and myriad offensive records. This season, things haven’t been so kind to the Saints. After an offseason that featured the likes of “Bounty Gate” which saw several players and head coach Sean Peyton get suspended, the Saints have struggled this season to put together wins.

Things, as they always do, start on the offensive end of the ball where Brees has been good, but not his usual dominant self. Brees, who had been the most accurate starting quarterback over the last three season, is “only” completing 59.7 percent of his passes after completing at least 68 percent in each of the last three seasons. In fact, he his percentage hasn’t been this low since his second year in the NFL when he completed on 60 percent of his passes.

The Saints’ running game hasn’t been as good or as consistent than any point in the previous three seasons. Last year, they wan the ball 27 times per game and averaged 133 rushing yards per game. This year, they’re only averaging 73 yards on 20 carries per game — and they could really use the benefits afforded to a team that runs the ball. Running the ball consistently eats away at the clock and keeps the defense off the field, which brings us to the Saints larger issue.

As things currently stand, the Saints have the third worst passing defense and the league’s worst rushing defense and are giving up more yards per play, 6.7, than any other team in the NFL. They’re giving up 30.9 points per game, which is third worst in the NFL. They give up way too many big plays, and when they don’t give up big plays, they give up long, extended drives that keep the offense off the field and out of rhythm. Luckily for the Saints, they’re playing a team tonight who has a penchant for turning the ball over in the Philadelphia Eagles.

Much like the Saints, the Eagles have struggled tremendously this season — even in the games that they have won. In the Eagles first two games of the season, both wins, they turned the ball over nine times, which included six Michael Vick turnovers. Since then, Vick has cut down on the interceptions (two in the following five games), but the Eagles have struggled to win with only one victory in those five games. Michael Vick’s passer rating, 78.6, is his lowest as a member of the Eagles and now has him on the hot seat with head coach Andy Reid.

Last season, the Eagles seemingly put together a team that, on paper, could compete for a Super Bowl. However, the success on the field has not matched what many have predicted for this team. Since the beginning of last season, the Eagles are 11-12 and are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the second straight year.

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles have been just, well, average. They’re giving up four rushing yards per carry and 113 yards on the ground per game which is 16th in the NFL. Their passing defense is 14th in the NFL. Their biggest problem on the defensive side of the ball is that they haven’t been able to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, which have led to some big plays against their secondary. The Eagles are going to their game against the Saints with the second fewest quarterback sacks in the NFL at only nine on the season.

So tonight, we have two teams with loads of talent desperate for a win to save their season, and in some cases, their job. Can the Saints porous defense get some stops against the Eagles and their propensity to turn the ball over? Will Drew Brees have a big night against a defense that puts little to no pressure on opposing quarterbacks? Those are the things to pay attention to in tonight’s Monday Night Football game.