Amazingly, despite a 13-2 record, the Philadelphia Eagles have not even clinched their own division yet, let alone the top seed in the NFC. They lost a wild and pretty frustrating game on Christmas Eve against the Cowboys, but the reality is that the loss really does not hurt them too much in the long run (at least for seeding purposes – obviously Lane Johnson’s health will be something to monitor). They still have two more chances to take care of business themselves and clinch the 1 seed, with the upcoming Saints game on New Year’s Day being the first of those opportunities.

The Saints are not quite completely out of the playoff hunt yet in the terrible NFC South, and of course their own first round pick belongs to the Eagles, so they will be interested in winning this game despite their 6-9 record. This team is incredibly banged up, however, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. At wide receiver, Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry and Deonte Harty are all on Injured Reserve, while star rookie Chris Olave’s status is up in the air for this week after missing last week’s game. They are also down both of their starting guards, and Alvin Kamara has not looked quite like the explosive, versatile, pass-catching running back of years past. Because of all of this, a lot of their offense recently has run through swiss army knife Taysom Hill, who has experience at every offensive skill position. Hill is probably the most uniquely-utilized player in the league, and the Eagles will have to keep their eyes on him whenever he is on the field. Overall, however, with Andy Dalton leading the helm, it is just not a very intimidating group.

Defensively is where the Saints have been winning their games, and the key matchup to watch this week will be pass-rusher Cameron Jordan against whoever the Eagles decide to play at right tackle this week in Lane Johnson’s absence. I am interested to see whether they will decide to just plug and play Jack Driscoll there, or perhaps move Jordan Mailata to the right side and play Andre Dillard at left tackle. It might honestly depend on whether Jalen Hurts plays this week or not. I think they may want Hurts’ blind side protected as well as possible if he is going to play a little hampered. The Saints also have other former All-Pro veterans in Demario Davis and Tyrann Mathieu, though star cornerback Marshon Lattimore remains out.

The Eagles played a good Cowboys team extremely tough on the road on a short week without their best player. The Saints have won two straight games, but I think the Eagles will be able to calm the nerves of the city of Philadelphia by winning fairly stress-free on Sunday and securing the top seed in the NFC, regardless of who is at quarterback. They are just significantly more talented on both sides of the ball.


Prediction: Eagles win 24-16, and cover the spread



Photo: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

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