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EAGLES AT SAINTS
As a handicapper, there are times when you have to throw the numbers out the window and go with your gut. At times there are factors with a particular game that won't show up on any stat sheet, and this game may very well be one such time.
Truthfully folks, when breaking this game down by the numbers, the Eagles come up as the play. All the various methods we use to get a number all have the Saints by a field goal or less, with one having the Eagles winning straight up. The Eagles even edge out the Saints in turnover ratio at +5 compared to the Saints -3, one of only two playoff teams in the minus column. Seattle being the other.
Taking a step outside the numbers, let's take a look at what we have observed over the last month and a half from these two teams. Sure, the Eagles won down the stretch, with Garcia at the helm, to get where they are. But they didn't do so in a dominating fashion. They squeaked by, and quite frankly, played some pretty sloppy football at times, with the exception of their win on the road at Dallas on Xmas day.
The Saints on the other hand, also won down the stretch, but did so a little more convincingly against some of the very same teams. The Saints blew out the Falcons, 49ers, Cowboys and Giants with three of those four being on the road. If Eli Manning could do a little damage against the Eagles, imagine what Drew Brees will be able to do, not to mention Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister pounding the ball. There's little doubt that the Saints will be able to move the ball on the Eagles and will find the end zone a few times against the banged up Eagles. (Eagles are without all pro cornerback Lito Sheppard this week)
The question mark is the Saints defense. Will they be able to stop the Eagles? Which Saints defense will show up? The one that gave up 38 points to the Steelers? Or the one that's responsible for these results :
23-3 over Atlanta
31-14 over Tampa
31-13 over Atlanta
34-10 over SF
42-17 over Dallas
30-7 over the Giants
We sense it will be the one that averaged giving up just 11 points in the games listed above. They'll have all the incentive in the world to rise to the occasion. After all, it's a storybook setting. Here's the Saints, one year removed from the Katrina disaster and a 3-13 season, hosting a divisional playoff game for the first time ever in the Superdome. It will be a prime time game, with all eyes on the Saints and Eagles. Anyone remember September 25th when the Falcons came in on a Monday night? A similar prime time setting with a rabid New Orleans crowd and a Superdome overflowing with emotion? This Saturday night should provide a similar setting with the same type of emotion. That type of atmosphere has been known to make mediocre defenses resemble great ones. The Saints defense has potential as seen in the games listed above, so count on that defense to show up Saturday night.
With a Saints team that already figures to be a little better than the Eagles, the extra motivation the crowd and atmosphere in general will provide, figures to be enough to send the Saints to the NFC Championship game. The only question is, will it be enough to cover -5? If the team that played in those 6 games listed above shows up, it shouldn't be a problem.
We mentioned in a previous article that the numbers don't lie. Well, perhaps they tell little white ones. Because this is one instance where we're going to go against the numbers.
OUR PICK - SAINTS -5 (3*)