The New Orleans Saints have dominated opponents at home this season, but the road has been a different story for Drew Brees and company. The sixth-seeded Saints take aim at the first road playoff win in franchise history Saturday night when they visit the third-seeded Philadelphia Eagles, who enter this matchup as one of the hottest teams in the postseason. There likely will be no shortage of points, as the Eagles (second) and Saints (fourth) are among the league leaders in total offense while featuring some of the NFL's top skill-position players - Brees and Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, and the Eagles' duo of quarterback Nick Foles and running back LeSean McCoy, just to name a few.
New Orleans had lost three of four before routing Tampa Bay 42-17 last week - a win that improved the Saints to 8-0 at home compared to their 3-5 record on the road. The Eagles, meanwhile, had lost 10 straight home games before winning their final four contests at Lincoln Financial Field, but first-year coach Chip Kelly knows that while the Saints present a much tougher challenge, the focus remains the same. "You can't be like, ‘Oh my God, now we are in the playoffs and we've got to do this,'" said Kelly. "I think that's really not our mindset. It's, we have got a really, really good Saints team coming in here and we have to prepare the heck out of our guys and play a big game on Saturday night."
TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Eagles -2.5. O/U: 53.5
ABOUT THE SAINTS (11-5): Brees, who was second in the NFL in passing yards (5,162) and touchdowns (39), believes that New Orleans is capable of winning three straight on the road in the playoffs after losing its final three road games of the regular season. "Absolutely," Brees said after the win against Tampa Bay. "We are good enough to do whatever we set out to do. I think today was a great step in the right direction to get ready for this playoff run." The Saints' defense is much improved from years past, as they allowed the second-fewest passing yards in the league (194.1) and surrendered 20 points or fewer 12 times, although they were the only NFL team without a defensive touchdown in 2013.
ABOUT THE EAGLES (10-6): Philadelphia rebounded from a 3-5 start to win seven of its last eight games, thanks in large part to the steady play of Foles (27 TDs, two INTs, NFL-best 119.2 passer rating) and McCoy, who led the league with a franchise-record 1,607 rushing yards. Kelly's offense had 98 plays of at least 20 yards this season - the most since the Elias Sports Bureau began tracking the stat in 1995 - with DeSean Jackson (career highs of 82 catches for 1,332 yards) leading the way through the air. The NFC East champions must find some way to slow Graham, who paced the NFL with 16 touchdown catches, particularly given their history of struggling with opposing tight ends, including the Cowboys' Jason Witten (12 catches, 135 yards last week).
1. Only one team in the NFL (Seattle) created more turnovers than Philadelphia this season. The Eagles forced 31 turnovers - 19 interceptions and 12 fumbles - including three turnovers in their season-ending, do-or-die win at Dallas.
2. The game-time temperature could be in the 20's, but Saints running back Pierre Thomas isn't concerned. “I’m not worried about the cold,” said Thomas, who led the team with 549 rushing yards. “Actually, out there playing, I’m sweating so much my body’s overheating, I kind of need that cool air to cool me down.”
3. Since the NFL expanded to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, a No. 6 seed has made it to the Super Bowl only twice - the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers and the 2010 Green Bay Packers, both of whom won it all.
PREDICTION: Saints 37, Eagles 31
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Key Players to Watch
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- ArmQues Sun | questionable
Slay was lifted from the previous game with an arm injury, and it is uncertain if he will suit up Sunday versus the 49ers.
- LegQues Sun | questionable
Peters was taken out of the previous game due to a left leg injury, and it is up in the air if he will line up against the 49ers on Sunday.
- Upper BodyOut indefinitely | I-R
Watkins has been ticked for the injured reserve list with an upper-body injury. He has been designated for return, and it is uncertain if he will come off the IR in time for Sunday's game against 49ers.
- ThumbOut indefinitely | I-R
Reagor has been sent to the injured reserve list with a torn UCL in his right thumb. It is up in the air when the team will designate him for return.
- AnkleOut indefinitely | I-R
Goedert has wound up on the injured reserve list due to a left ankle fracture, and it is uncertain when he will be activated.
- HamstringQues Sun | questionable
Jackson exited the previous game with a minor hamstring strain, and his status for Sunday's matchup versus the 49ers is hazy.
- AnkleOut Sun | out
Maddox left the last game with an ankle injury, and he will not play Sunday against the 49ers.
- Lower BodyQues Sun | questionable
Arcega-Whiteside has a lower-body injury, and it is unclear if he will take the field Sunday against the 49ers.
New Orleans Saints
- AnkleQues Sun | questionable
Peat left the previous game due to a high-ankle injury, and it is undetermined if he will line up Sunday versus the Lions.
- HamstringOut indefinitely | I-R
Montgomery has been designated for the injured reserve list with a hamstring injury, and it is unknown when he team will bring him back.
- CalfQues Sun | questionable
Onyemata was held out of the last game with an injury to his calf, and it is uncertain if he will take the field versus the Lions on Sunday.
- AnkleQues Sun | questionable
Thomas suffered left high-ankle sprain, and it has yet to be established if he will return against the Lions on Sunday.
- ElbowQues Sun | questionable
Davenport has sat out the past three games with an elbow injury, and it is unclear if he will make his season debut Sunday against the Lions.
- GroinQues Sun | questionable
Cook departed the last game with a groin injury, and it is uncertain if he will face the Lions on Sunday.
- HipQues Sun | questionable
Hansen has sat out the previous two games due to a hip injury, and it is unknown if he will return against the Lions on Sunday.
- FootProb Sun | probable
Brown has a foot injury, but he is expected to be in Sunday's lineup versus the Packers.