New Orleans Saints @ Philadelphia Eagles
Kick Off - Sunday, 01:10
Live on Sky Sports 1
It's been the classic season of two halves for the Philadelphia Eagles. Coming out of Week Eight, Philly found themselves with a 3-5 record and without the services of starting-quarterback Michael Vick due to injury. At this point, their chances of reaching the play-offs looked slim to none.
But then along came Nick Foles, whose performances under-centre changed everything. Philadelphia's back-up quarterback arrived on the scene in the low-key guise of Clark Kent. But then we watched open-mouthed, as through Weeks nine to 17, Foles transformed right before our eyes, into a footballing Superman.
With unerring acccuracy, he picked his way through opposing defenses, as he guided the Eagles to seven wins from their next eight games, producing a 100-plus quaterback rating in the process. Foles also quickly established a rapport with hitherto unknown wide-receiver Riley Cooper, while still finding enough TD passes to enhance the already substantial reputation of Philly's premier receiver, DeSean Jackson.
But Foles has not been alone in his heroic performances. Playing Robin to his Batman has been LeSean McCoy, who's had his best ever season in the NFL. His nine rushing touchdowns may still lag behind the 17 he earned back in 2011, but in terms of yards gained McCoy has been an absolute revelation.
McCoy has rushed for an average of more than 100 yards per game over the course of this season, which is sensational, and which has made Philadelphia the number one rushing team in the league. And then, as if that was not enough, McCoy has also weighed-in with 539 receiving yards and two TDs in the passing game, at a career-high average of more than 10 yards per catch.
New Orleans, of course, have their own not-so-secret weapon, in the form of Drew Brees, who according to his season's stats is still performing at the very top of his game. That's also backed up by the fact that New Orleans are rated the number two passing team in the league. And now Brees, and his favourite receiver Jimmy Graham, head into what should be a dream match-up for them, when they take on an Eagles secondary that's ranked stone cold last in the NFL.
The Saints though do face a couple of major obstacles that we should address.
Firstly, they have no obvious way of stopping Philly's formidable running game. And secondly, and perhaps more significantly, they have a woeful record away from home. The Saints are a dome team. And Brees is a dome quaterback.
And while Brees should make hay against the Eagles woeful pass-defence, it's alarming to see that such a great quarterback has thrown the same number of interceptions (four), as he has touchdowns this season, when playing on turf. And it's not just Brees who finds life tough on the road. With just three wins from eight games played away from the Superdome, New Orleans as a club have struggled on their travels this season.
Perhaps most worrying of all those losses was the 26-20 defeat suffered away to the New York Jets. In that game, Jets running back Chris Ivory was made to look superhuman by New Orleans' crumbling defensive line. And when a player as mediocre as Ivory starts showing you up, it's time to admit that you have real problems. McCoy must be champing at the bit for this game to get under way, as it's hard to see how the Saints' defense will be able to deal with his jinking, side-to-side runs, which could and should turn into big-gain plays.
The Eagles look set to fly-high once again in this game, and the one-two combination punch of Foles and McCoy should be enough to deliver a knockout blow to the Saints' title hopes.
Expect McCoy to hit paydirt, and rely on big yards from Foles in a comfortable Philadelphia win. Brees will throw, and throw big, and when he does, bank on Graham being the beneficiary in the endzone. But Brees also looks likely to throw-up some costly turnovers, while the lack of a formidable running game makes the Saints offense as a whole, simply too easy to predict.
Philadelphia (-2.5) to win @ 1.9110/11
Philadelphia to win at Half Time @ 1.865/6
LeSean McCoy rushing yards to be over 96.5 @ 1.9110/11 or better
Nick Foles passing yards to be over 262.5 @ 1.9110/11 or better
Jimmy Graham to score anytime touchdown @ 1.68/13