The Eagles played their cards to the maximum this week, so they gave up some ground on Friday. It’s almost certain that veteran backup quarterback Gardner Minshew will start for the Eagles again this Sunday because he has been listed as questionable with an injury.
No player with that injury designation has defied the odds this season anywhere in the NFL. The Eagles are 13-2, and they play the New Orleans Saints, who are 6-9 but are still playing for a playoff spot because of the way tiebreakers work.
Philadelphia owns New Orleans’ first-round pick in 2023 after trades between former GMs Howie Roseman (Philadelphia) and Mickey Loomis (New Orleans).
Another loss at Philadelphia might shake up the very foundations of New Orleans, so while I wouldn’t call it a Super Bowl, it’s undoubtedly Loomis’ signature game.
Players to Watch
Eagles QB Gardner Minshew – In the next four seasons, there are not many things that Minshew can do in Dallas other than putting the ball onto Quez Watkins better on the two interceptions.
Another solid performance against the No. 2 passing defense would get him closer to his goal of being an NFL starter in 2023.
Eagles TE Dallas Goedert – Eagles tight end coach Justin Peelle said that Dallas Goedert was used a lot in the game plan, with more than 10 plays designed for him.
The Cowboys’ defense knew that Minshew would look for the tight end early in the game, so they sent some extra pressure his way.
This led to A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith each having 100-yard games, as Minshew proved he could throw outside the numbers. The Eagles could take advantage of this tendency this week against Goedert.
Saints QB Andy Dalton – Dalton is a veteran quarterback who has the experience to lead the Bengals to victory but has some weaknesses.
If Dalton can stay out of trouble and avoid making big mistakes, he will be able to execute his game plan effectively, but don’t expect him to perform miracles. He’s what’s known as a “professional hitter” in baseball.
Dalton has thrown for 2,495 yards, 17 touchdowns, and eight picks for a 95.7 passer rating while completing 219 of 331 passes (a career-high 66.2%) in 12 starts this year.
Saints WR Chris Olave – Rookie receiver Marques Colston is questionable with a hamstring injury, and the Saints really need him if they hope to keep up with the explosive Eagles.
Colston leads New Orleans in receptions and receiving yardage with 63 catches for 940 yards (14.9 avg.) with three touchdowns.
He also leads all NFL rookies in third-down receptions with 24.
Saints LB Demario Davis – Davis, widely regarded as one of the toughest players in the NFL, has recorded 94 tackles and 6.5 sacks for the Bengals this season.
He has also picked off a pass, deflected four others, recovered a fumble, and even scored a touchdown on a blocked punt.
Eagles’ third-down defense vs Andy Dalton and Co. – Against the Saints, who rank 14th in the NFL in third-down conversion rate (40.5%), Jonathan Gannonon’s defense will be trying to make up for a rare situational collapse against the Cowboys.
Eagles’ rushing attack without Jalen Hurts vs the Saints’ run defense – Since the Eagles were without their starting quarterback, they had trouble running the ball.
They started using more inside zone and lost to Dallas. New Orleans ranked 23rd against the run and missed their starting running back, so this might be an easier game for Philadelphia.
Eagles pass rush vs the statuesque Andy Dalton – The Eagles will have four players (Brandon Graham, Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, and Javon Hargrave) record 10 or more sacks in a season for the first time in NFL history.
The Eagles need one sack to break their franchise record for QB takedowns in a season (62), which they set in 2016. Given Andy Dalton’s lack of mobility, that should leave plenty of chances for the pass rush to make an impact.
Ball security – As the playoffs are near, the Eagles’ recent issues with ball security are concerning. They’ve committed 14 turnovers in the past seven games and seven turnovers in the last two games.
The Eagles were undefeated and boasted a plus-15 turnover differential in their first eight games. Since then, however, they have won the turnover battle only twice in seven games for a minus-six differential.
The Cowboys, who rank second in the NFL in third-down conversion rate (51.4%), are determined to put the ball in WR Quez Watkins’s hands more often.
The Eagles will take advantage of CB Andy Dalton’s tendency to make big mistakes by designing more than 10 plays for TE Dallas Goedert.
If Dalton can stay out of trouble and avoid making big mistakes, he will be able to execute his game plan effectively against CB Jonathan Gannonon and the Eagles’ No. 3 passing defense.
The No. 6 third-down defense (33%) will look to improve this week after giving up an 88% completion rate on third down against the Saints last week.
The Eagles need one more sack to break their franchise record for quarterback takedowns in a season. Brandon Graham, Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, and Javon Hargrave will each get 10 or more sacks, an NFL first.