Eagles-Saints Betting Preview: Does Philly Have Any Playoff Magic Left?
USA Today Sports. Pictured: Nick Foles, Drew Brees
Betting odds: Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints
- Spread: Saints -8
- Over/Under: 51
- Time: Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET
- TV channel: FOX
>> All odds as of Friday morning. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NFL odds and track your bets
The Saints were anywhere between 7.5- and 10-point favorites when this line opened. It settled in at -7.5 for a time, but has since gone up to -8.
Like every other dog this weekend, the Eagles are trendy, getting 55% of bets and 69% of dollars at the time of writing (see live data here). If some real sharp players had hit them, they would’ve moved to +7, but that hasn’t happened yet.
The over/under initially fell from 51.5 to 50.5 despite the fact that the over was getting two-thirds of the total bets — that’s what we call a reverse line move, folks.
But it’s since moved back up to 51.5 thanks to some buyback. — Mark Gallant
Trends to Know
Nick Foles is 4-0 straight up and against the spread in the playoffs since 2017, but history suggests he could regress.
Backup quarterbacks — defined as starting five or fewer regular-season games — not named Foles have gone 11-21 SU and 13-17-2 ATS in the postseason since 1990. — John Ewing
After the Eagles’ wild-card win over the Bears, Foles has won six straight starts as an underdog, becoming the sixth quarterback since 2003 to accomplish that feat.
Matt Ryan was the last to do so in 2015-16, but Eli Manning is the best comparison to Foles. Manning’s two streaks of six or more games won as a dog crossed through his Super Bowl wins in 2008 (eight) and 2012 (six). — Evan Abrams
Underdogs are 14-1 ATS in the playoffs since the 2017 season, but bettors shouldn’t count on the dogs to keep barking — pooches were 24-28-3 ATS over the previous five playoffs. — Ewing
Doug Pederson is 0-3 SU and ATS on the road when facing an opponent the Eagles previously lost to by 20 or more points in the teams’ most recent meeting, failing to cover by 10 points per game. — Abrams
If this game comes down to the wire, Drew Brees has given fans and bettors more confidence than ever: His seven game-winning drives this season are his most in a single season. — Abrams
The Saints finished the regular season 13-3 SU and 10-6 ATS, making them the NFL’s second-most profitable team ATS, per our Bet Labs data. Unfortunately for their backers, they limped to the playoffs, failing to cover in their final three games.
Teams that enter the playoffs on at least a three-game ATS losing streak are actually 7-2 SU and 8-1 ATS over the past decade, covering by an average of 11.2 points per game. — Abrams
When the Saints have the ball: Saints’ receivers vs. Eagles’ secondary
Since that 48-7 loss to the Saints in Week 11, the Eagles have won six of seven games.
Two of those came against Redskins backup quarterbacks. A third was against Eli Manning. Another was against a Texans team that still managed to score 30 points despite having one of football’s worst offensive lines. And the most recent came against the vertically challenged Mitchell Trubisky.
The only impressive win over that stretch came against a Rams team that still put up more than 400 yards with Todd Gurley at less than 100%.
Let’s just say I’m not going to put much stock in that one game.
The Saints simply have too many weapons on the outside and should expose a depleted Eagles’ secondary that has benefited from a favorable schedule (and some luck).
The Eagles’ defensive strength is along their front, where they might have the NFL’s deepest pass rush. But the Saints have one of the best offensive lines, which ranks No. 3 in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate and can neutralize that rush.
Yes, Eagles rookie Avonte Maddox has been one of football’s best corners by a lot of metrics since taking over as a starter, but you better believe that the Saints will take advantage of his aggressive style (which plays much better when the defensive line can dominate).
You saw how often Allen Robinson beat Maddox with double moves last week. The Saints will utilize those same route combinations for the unguardable Michael Thomas.
I also expect a huge day from Alvin Kamara against an Eagles defense that ranks No. 24 in defending running backs out of the backfield, per Football Outsiders.
He’ll be huge in the screen game and as a dump-off option when the Eagles generate pressure on Brees.
Brees and his receivers should eat off a first-round bye in the dome against a decimated secondary. — Stuckey
When the Eagles have the ball: Eagles’ deep passing vs. Saints’ secondary
Two reasons the Eagles offense has picked up under Foles: He has been willing to throw the deep ball and Golden Tate assimilated to the offense after being traded midseason.
Both of those things could pay dividends against a Saints pass defense that allows 7.5 yards per attempt (28th in the NFL) and ranks dead last in defending the deep ball, per FO.
Look for the Eagles to attack safety Kurt Coleman’s side of the field with deep balls. Coleman ranks 85th out of 97 qualified safeties in Pro Football Focus coverage grades. — Stuckey
Bonus Matchup to Watch
Eagles’ red-zone defense vs. Saints’ red-zone offense
The Eagles defense led the league in red-zone touchdown rate (44.6%) during the regular season. They’ll try to slow down a Saints offense that ranked fourth in red-zone touchdown rate (69.6%), including a third-best 79.4% rate at home.
Brees finished the regular season with absolutely silly red zone numbers: 67-of-93 (72.04%) with 22 touchdowns and zero interceptions. — Stuckey
Who Has the Advantage in Key Areas?
As magical as Foles has been in the postseason, the bottom line is that Brees has set the all-time completion percentage record two seasons in a row and has thrown as many interceptions in 15 starts this season as Foles has since taking over the reigns for Carson Wentz four games ago (five). — Chris Raybon
Sean Payton and Pederson have both taken highly questionable timeouts this season.
Payton used his final timeout on defense three seconds before the two-minute warning with the Cowboys in field-goal range and the game tied at 10 in Week 13.
Then there’s Pederson, who blew his first timeout in the wild-card matchup against the Bears with the clock already stopped at 1:01 before a fourth-and-goal when having three timeouts would’ve given the Eagles a chance to get the ball back had they failed to score.
As luck would have it, only Payton’s ended up costing him game.
But Pederson’s probably should have, too. He blew his second timeout before a failed 2-point conversion attempt that saw Wendell Smallwood get stuffed after Darren Sproles had just gotten stuffed from the 2-yard line on first- and second-and-goal.
(The jury is out on whether Pederson was right not to trust Josh Adams, who fumbled in a key moment against the Texans in Week 16. But at 225 pounds, Adams is 17 pounds heavier than Smallwood and 35 heavier than Sproles.)
Pederson has as many Super Bowl rings in three years as a head coach as Payton has in 12. Pederson also tends to be smarter with challenges, winning 12-of-23 (52%) over the past three seasons compared to Payton’s 8-of-21 (38%).
But Pederson’s team has been plagued by slow offensive starts, averaging a league-low 2.6 points in first quarters, which is not ideal against a Saints offense that’s tied for fourth with 7.1 points in first quarters at home this season.
And judging by the current odds, there’s no worse than a 75% chance that we see the Saints hitting da Sean Payton in the Superdome’s home locker room on Sunday. — Raybon
Special teams: Saints
Just ask Eagles fans how important special teams are. Unfortunately for them, they’re facing a team with the overall advantage.
While kicker Jake Elliott has dealt with inconsistency issues on short field goals early in his career, we haven’t seen as much of that this season. He’s connected on 26-of-31 field goal attempts, but only one of those misses came from shorter than 40 yards. Three came from farther than 50.
Those numbers don’t touch Will Lutz, though. Lutz has been tremendous, connecting on 28-of-30 field goal attempts.
While these are both average kick coverage units, the Saints average about 2.5 more yards per return and have the much more dangerous return unit.
The Eagles and Saints are tied atop the NFL in net punting at 45.0 yards and each average a much less impressive 6.5 yards per return (bottom 10). Both also rank in the top six in punt return coverage.
The punting is very even in every aspect, but the Saints have much more explosive potential.
Which team is healthier? Saints
The Saints are almost 100% healthy … with the glaring exception of their most-important unit: The offensive line.
Left tackle Terron Armstead (shoulder), backup left tackle Jermon Bushrod (hamstring), right tackle Ryan Ramczyk (shoulder), left guard Andrus Peat (hand) and right guard Larry Warford (knee) all started the week with a limited practice.
The Eagles defense could get some much-needed reinforcements if linebacker D.J. Alexander (hamstring) and cornerback Sidney Jones (hamstring) can parlay their respective returns to practice into snaps on Sunday.
Defensive end Michael Bennett and left tackle Jason Peters (foot) are expected to continue to play through pain, while wide receivers Alshon Jeffery (ribs) and Tate (knee) are also tentatively expected to suit up.
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Eagles: Foles has continued to target Zach Ertz as the de facto No. 1 receiver since taking over for Wentz in Week 15.
- Ertz: 34 targets since Week 15
- Jeffery: 27
- Tate: 22
- Nelson Agholor: 21
- Sproles: 16
- Smallwood: 13
- Dallas Goedert: 12
Tate’s eight targets last week trailed only Jeffery’s nine. Foles was confident enough in the Eagles’ midseason addition to throw Tate the ball on their biggest play of the season yet: The game-winning touchdown in Chicago.
Jeffery is expected to again see shadow coverage from Marshon Lattimore (PFF’s No. 25 overall cornerback), so Agholor should see plenty of Eli Apple (No. 77), while Tate will get to feast on P.J. Williams (No. 110).
Still, it’s tough to ignore just how dominant the Saints were during their 48-7 victory over the Eagles in Week 11. Ertz (2-15-0), Jeffery (4-33-0), Agholor (0-0-0) nor Tate (5-48-0) were able to get much going in the Coors Field of Fantasy Football.
Saints: Brees completed 22-of-30 (77.3%) passes for 363 yards (12.1 yards per attempt) with four touchdowns and zero interceptions against the Eagles in Week 11.
Thomas (4-92-1), Tre’Quan Smith (10-157-1) and Kamara (1-37-1) also made their presence felt against the NFL’s fourth-worst defense in DraftKings points per game allowed to opposing receiver units.
The Eagles have honorably dealt with their injury-riddled secondary over the season’s second half and managed to hold the Bears (15 points) and Redskins (13 and 0) offenses in check since their Week 11 debacle.
Still, the Giants (22), Cowboys (29), Rams (23) and Texans (30) were able to find some success through the air against this rag-tag cornerback group.
Maddox could be Payton’s key target. It’s impossible for Maddox to fully cover the current talent gap that exists between him and Thomas.
Thomas is locked and loaded as the offense’s featured pass-game target, but the rest of the pecking order is a mystery. His $7,900 price tag on DraftKings comes with a gaudy 29.3-point projected ceiling and a +1.85 Projected Plus/Minus. — Hartitz
Bets to Watch
Saints -8: I’m breaking nearly every rule I live by: Betting a huge favorite against a hot team with a quarterback who has proven he can win in pressure situations and, at the very least, bring his team back in furious comeback for a backdoor cover.
Whew … take a breath.
Here’s why I’m backing the Saints: For all the improvements the Eagles have made during their furious playoff run, their secondary is still the weak link. That was obvious in the second half against the Bears, when Trubisky consistently threw over the top with ease, hitting receivers who were getting separation.
Brees is a better quarterback than Trubisky, his receivers are better than any the Bears have and, unlike Matt Nagy, Payton will not wait until the final quarter to be aggressive.
The Bears’ other failing: They ignored Tarik Cohen, their best playmaker. He caught one pass on the first drive for 20 yards and was targeted just three times the rest of the game.
In space and on the edge against the Eagles defensive backs, he would have made a difference.
You might have noticed, but the Saints have Kamara, who is better and more productive than Cohen. I don’t expect Payton and Brees to forget that, either. — Chad Millman
Over 51.5: This trend failed me last week, but I am back on the wagon. I thought I was well on my way to Green Dot City with the way the Colts-Texans game started, but I was hung out to dry in Red Dot Unincorporated Township.
Playoff dome overs have been very profitable historically. The over has hit in 29-of-39 games since 2003, winning by an average margin of 5.58 points.
Despite last week’s loss, games with totals of 47 or higher have still been the real money makers: The over has hit in 21-of-25 games by a margin of more than eight points.
History suggests this will get back on the winning track. — Gallant
Saints -0.5 1Q: In the words of my boss, Chad Millman: “The Nick Foles story is done.” I think the Saints roll the Eagles to eliminate the reigning champs.
With that said, I love the value of the Saints in the first quarter.
Brees has outscored his opponents 47-19 in the opening quarter of home games since the Saints’ Week 1 loss to Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bucs. Brees is 34-for-45 (75.6%) passing in those six quarters with 9.4 yards per attempt, 21 passing first downs and no sacks taken. And in six home playoff games, Brees has three touchdowns, no picks, no sacks, higher than a 70% completion percentage and 9.8 yards per attempt in the first quarter.
The Eagles are going up against a giant. I’ll roll with the Saints early. — Abrams
Michael Thomas Over 81 receiving yards: Thomas has put up at least 81 yards in eight of 15 starts with Brees this season, including 92 on only four catches against the Eagles in Week 11.
Thomas, who averages 9.2 targets per game, should get even more chances in a game likely to be far more competitive: Underdogs that lost the previous head-to-head meeting against their Divisional Round opponent are 28-15 (65.3%) ATS since 2003, covering by an average of 2.49 points according to our Bet Labs data.
The Eagles finished the regular season allowing 90.9 schedule-adjusted receiving yards per game to No. 1 wide receivers — the most in the league, per Football Outsiders.
Then they got destroyed by Robinson for 143 yards on 10 catches in last week’s wild-card meeting, his highest total since December 2016.
Counting Robinson’s effort, the Eagles have allowed a wide receiver to go for 100 or more yards in eight games, 90 or more in 10 games and 83 or more in 12 games.
I’d bet this into the low 90s. — Raybon
Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.