FOX Sports execs must have been salivating when the NFL schedule-makers unveiled their Week 14 slate, showcasing a 4:25 P.M. Eastern kickoff between two playoff teams from a year ago with potential top-seed implications for both teams. While the Saints have held up their end of the bargain, entering the weekend as the top seed in the NFC, the Eagles have underachieved, failing to live up to preseason expectations where many predicted them to win their division.
Instead, Philly sits at a disappointing 3-8-1, barely in front of the lowly Cowboys in the division, and second-to-last in the conference. They’ve lost four in a row and are knee-deep in the toughest stretch of their schedule, one that’s featured opponents like the Seahawks, Packers, Saints, and Cardinals. What was once marketed as a marquee matchup between Carson Wentz and Drew Brees, has morphed into something completely different.
Hurts to Make First Career Start
Wentz was benched in the second half of last Sunday’s loss to the Packers, and he’ll stay there for the game against the Saints. Doug Pederson announced this week that Jalen Hurts would take over as the starter to hopefully provide a spark to a struggling offense. Wentz leads the NFL in sacks, interceptions, and fumbles, but the man that’s been snapping him the ball doesn’t think he should shoulder all the blame.
"You feel bad he's the sole one taking the hit right now," three-time All-Pro center Jason Kelce said. "Obviously, the entire offense has been terrible: offensive line, running backs, receivers, coaches. You aren't this bad unless everybody shares blame in this whole thing."
Meanwhile, Pederson has been famous for abandoning his run game, and that perceived flaw is exploited even more when the team is losing. This week, he admitted that Miles Sanders and company could be Hurts’ best friend in easing him in during his first start.
"I think in order to get (Hurts) success, you've got to attempt and try to establish a little bit of the run game," Pederson said. "Then he can be a part of that, I think, and just go out and maybe try to find some easy completions. The quick game or a screen here and there, something that can just kind of get him into the flow of the game. This is the No. 1 defense; it's no easy task."
Hill Holding Down the Fort
Drew Brees was activated off the IR this week, but it’s expected that Taysom Hill will be under center for the fourth straight week when New Orleans kicks off against the Eagles. The Saints have won nine straight, the last three with Hill calling the signals. New Orleans is now 8-0 during the previous two seasons with Brees on the sideline due to injury.
The Saints have leaned on two other strengths with Brees recovering from broken ribs and a collapsed lung: the run game and their defense. They have eclipsed the 200-yard mark on the ground in two straight weeks and have the NFL's best defense, allowing just two touchdowns in their past five games.
One big reason for their success on that side of the ball has been former Eagle, Malcolm Jenkins. The safety was drafted by New Orleans before spending six seasons in Philadelphia. Jenkins remains fond of Philly, and appreciates the chance to play against his former club.
"I love that city," Jenkins said. "Given myself, everything I've got into that community, invested a lot into that community. And it's given the same love back to me. So, that city holds a special place in my heart."
Jenkins’ admiration for the City of Brotherly Love may be beautiful, but the outcome of Sunday’s game could be the exact opposite for the hosts. Hurts will be thrown to the wolves, and the Saints will win their 10th in a row, covering the 7.5-point spread with ease.