After missing the playoffs during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, firing then-head coach Andy Reid and hiring current head coach Chip Kelly prior to this season, the Philadelphia Eagles were being counted out in the NFC East when it came to the playoff picture. That lasted through the first eight games of the season when the Eagles went 3-5. However, a 7-1 second-half turnaround bumped the Eagles to the top of the division where they finished 10-6 for the season. It is January 4, 2014 and the NFL Playoffs have officially started. The Eagles have crashed the party and are playing host to the New Orleans Saints tonight in the NFC Wild Card game.
As of right now, there is only one player that is officially ruled out of playing tonight. That player is backup center Julian Vandervelde. He has been dealing with a back injury and it got to the point where he had to sit out for the game. Left guard Evan Mathis is now the backup center and would move over if Jason Kelce got hurt.
Safety Earl Wolff is listed as "questionable" for tonight's game after participating fully in Friday's practice. In the last six games of the season, Wolff had missed five due to a knee injury. Patrick Chung started in his place. With it being a playoff game, Chung will likely get the nod to start at safety even if Wolff is ready to go. The Eagles would need the healthiest players on the field at all times. Starting Wolff is almost telling the Saints to throw his direction. Look for Chung to get the start tonight.
Thomas is a multi-threat player for the Saints as he can run the ball and catch it. He is the team leader with 549 rushing yards and 147 attempts. He also has 77 catches on 84 targets for 513 yards. He has two rushing and three receiving touchdowns. In addition to those stats, Thomas is also the better blocker of all of the running backs so without him, Drew Brees is going to have to pay more attention to his surroundings. Mark Ingram will take over for the injured Thomas.
Saints safety Rafael Bush is "probable" for tonight's game with an ankle injury. Linebacker Keyunta Dawson is "questionable" due to a calf injury.
TWO QUARTERBACKS, ONE HIGH SCHOOL
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and Saints quarterback Drew Brees are both alums of Westlake High School which is located in Austin, Texas. The two played 10 years apart from each other, but Foles has the better stats as he broke several of Brees' high school records. Tonight in the NFC Wild Card game, it is going to be a battle of the alums.
Brees surely has the upper-hand based on his professional experience. He has a Super Bowl ring with the Saints and has thrown for 22 touchdowns in the post-season with only four interceptions, going 5-4 for his career in the post-season. Brees also has a stat that no one else has accomplished yet as he has four 5,000+ passing yard seasons in his career. Not even Peyton Manning or Tom Brady has accomplished that. Manning cracked the 5,000 yard mark for the first time this season. Brady has only thrown for 5,000+ yards once and that was in 2011.
This was the first season that Foles has had a significant amount of playing time. He started 10 games this season and finished 8-2, winning seven games in the second half of the season. Foles led the charge for the Eagles offense this season by throwing for 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He threw for 19 touchdowns without an interceptions to start his season. His 27-2 touchdown-interception ratio is also the best in NFL history.
Foles and Brees are both had great years. Since Brees has the experience, Foles will be facing the most pressure, especially since it is his first post-season game of his career.
THIS AND THAT
The Eagles have the momentum on their side heading into the game tonight. The Saints may have won one more game than the Eagles, but the Eagles went 7-1 in the second half of the season compared to the Saints' 5-3 record. In each of their past five games, the Saints went 2-3 while the Eagles went 4-1.
The Eagles and Saints last played each other on November 5, 2012. The Saints won the game 28-13 and opened the game with a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown. That shows just how bad the Eagles were last season. However, it's a new year and things went from really bad to really good for the Eagles this season. The defense has stepped it up and is playing better than we have seen in recent years. The offense finally started clicking once Foles took over.
Drew Brees' won his first playoff game in January 2007… against the Eagles. He has a 4-1 record against the Birds.
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