By Peter Gleason
Let’s simplify the Eagles’ biggest hurdle on Sunday when they play at the New Orleans Saints in the NFC divisional round:
If you subtract Week 17, when they were clearly making no effort to win, the Saints have lost just one game since Week 1, and that was when Drew Brees and the offense simply never showed up against a motivated Cowboys’ defense.
Even in that defeat, New Orleans could take away some positives, as the defense allowed only 13 points.
In was one of nine games this season in which the Saints allowed fewer than 20 points. Dennis Allen has turned the unit into something worth celebrating over the last two years.
Make no mistake: People come to the Saints to see the offense, and it more than delivered with the third-most points in the NFL this season.
Brees was brilliant, connecting with Michael Thomas for an league-leading 125 catches, but the running game was just as vital, generating the sixth-most rushing yards in the league (2,025) and the most rushing touchdowns (26).
The Eagles followed last year’s Super Bowl win by having the 23rd-ranked defense in the NFL this season.
The team has won four straight, including last weekend’s wild-card game, a stretch in which it has knocked off three playoff teams in the Rams, the Texans and the Bears.
There has been no better story in the over the last two seasons than Nick Foles, Ace Reliever.
But expecting the magic to continue is a step too far.
The Saints are better at offense, better at defense and have a fairly fresh memory of being shockingly eliminated in last year’s playoffs to motivate them.