For the Eagles, it’s the draft-pick game and it’s the clinch-the-bye game. Both of those juicy factors are on the table, providing serious motivation.
The Eagles are coming off their second loss of the season and they know a win over New Orleans will earn the precious NFC bye — vital for a team bruised up with key players on the sidelines.
THREE PREDICTIONS YOU’LL LIKE
1. THE QUARTERBACK
Will it be Gardner Minshew or Jalen Hurts? Hurts’ status for Sunday still is not certain. Will it matter? Either should be able to defeat the Saints.
Hurts was a limited participant at practice Thursday. Hurts did not participate in Wednesday’s walk-through, meaning he would not have participated had it been a normal practice.
If Hurts plays, fans will have their most intense game of the season — watching his every step, every throw, every run (Nooooooo!). What if he gets hit? What if he doesn’t get right back up?
2. THE DRAFT-CHOICE GAME
Eagles fans have religiously followed the Saints’ fortunes this season because Philly has New Orleans’ first-round pick in the 2023 draft.
Right now, that pick is 10th.
What better way to improve one’s draft status than by beating the team holding the pick?
- “It will be sweet if we can go out there and get this win, and then once we’re making the draft pick later we can say to ourselves, well, that really did help us out,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said.
- “Our goal though, is just to win this game.”
Players care way more about winning than the pick. Their motivation is the division title and the bye. The draft is four months away.
3. EAGLES WIN
The Eagles, on paper and on the field, are the superior team. They lead the NFL with a team-record 57 touchdowns and in points scored, averaging 29.7 per game.
The 6-9 Saints are 1-6 on the road, 0-4 against winning teams.
The 13-2 Eagles haven’t been home since the Dec. 4 victory over the Titans. Talent, motivation and the home crowd will be enough to carry Philly to victory, 31-13 — regardless of the quarterback.
THREE PREDICTIONS YOU WON’T LIKE
1. TAYSOM HILL
Hill is a tight end by trade who occasionally is used as a quarterback. He has completed only 11-of-17 passes this season.
The undrafted free agent has been this versatile weapon since joining the Saints in 2018. He is a greater threat running the ball than passing it. He has 77 rushes for 505 yards and six touchdowns. He only has seven catches for 66 yards and two touchdowns.
- “He plays quarterback, tight end, receiver, running back. He does it all,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said.
- “When he’s playing certain spots, we have to know that hey, this is what they like to do with him, this is why he’s a match-up issue for defenses if you allow it to be, and we have to have a good plan for him when they deploy him in different ways.
- “It makes this offense hard to defend because of how they use certain players that they have at their disposal. We have a big-time challenge, and we have to be on it.”
Hill is someone on whom the Eagles need to keep close tabs. If the Saints pull the upset, Hill’s versatility will be a major factor. He has that kind of game-altering ability.
2. ANDY DALTON
Dalton, a 2015 first-round pick by the Bengals, has started 160 NFL games, so he knows what he’s doing.
He just isn’t that good at it anymore, the Saints being his fourth team in four years.
- “Versatility,” Gannon said when asked what worries him about the Saints.
- “They have some weapons that they deploy people different ways, and you have to be on with Taysom, [running back Alvin] Kamara, the quarterback is playing pretty good.
- “They have a lot of versatility, and they use a lot of different tools at their disposal to put stress on a defense. We have to get lined up. We have to know where to put our eyes, and we have to execute at a high level.
- “That’s like any game you have to do that, but with these guys, they try to kind of get you off the scent, so to speak, so we have to be on it.”
Dalton/Hill and Kamara are capable of explosive games. The Eagles’ defense might be reeling after allowing 40 points to Dallas.
3. SAINTS WIN
New Orleans (6-9) is riding a two-game winning streak and is one game behind NFC South leader Tampa Bay (7-8), with a narrow path to the playoffs.
The Saints have the NFL’s ninth-ranked defense. Their passing defense is ranked second in the NFL. That could cause problems for Minshew or even Hurts, if he’s not 100 percent.
The Saints’ defense is the ticket to victory, along with a solid offense. It’s not likely but it’s possible. Saints, 24-23.