Sunday’s NFC divisional-round contest against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (3:40 p.m., FOX) is more than a game for the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.
Yes, the prideful Eagles want to stay alive on the Road to Super Bowl LIII but they also have a score to settle, their good reputation to uphold, manhood to defend and intend to prove the 48-7 beatdown by the Saints in Week 11 in the Big Easy was an aberration.
Their blood is running hot.
Eight weeks has done little to erase the memory of the Saints holding a commanding 38-7 lead early in the fourth quarter and Coach Sean Payton dialing up a pass play on fourth-and-6 from the Eagles 37-yard line. Moments later, Alvin Kamara carried Drew Brees’ pass across the goal line, leaving beaten safety and former Saints first-round draft pick Malcom Jenkins to deal with his emotions.
Jenkins eyed the Saints sideline, spotted Payton and flipped him the bird. Afterward, Jenkins took ownership for his actions while proclaiming love and respect for Payton.
“They ran up the score,’‘ Eagles left tackle Jason Peters told reporters earlier this week. “We wanted them again, we got them again. This time, we coming. It’s not going to be the same outcome.’‘
Time will tell if the Eagles are able to avenge their second worst loss in franchise history. It may take a herculean effort. The Saints are favored by 8 points to survive and play host to the NFC championship Jan. 20 against the survivor of Dallas-LA Rams.
With regards to Peters’ charge that the Saints ran up the score in Week 11, his words ring hollow. The Eagles could have stopped the fourth-down play and they didn’t, resulting in the notion — real or perceived — that Payton indeed made it personal and poured it on against a soundly beaten opponent.
Look for the Eagles to throw the first punch Sunday, knowing they need to set an early, physical tone. They come to the Big Easy feeling fat, sassy and brimming with confidence. They have won six of their last seven games and regained their swagger with Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles under center again for injured starter Carson Wentz.
In Game 1 between the teams, the Saints rendered Wentz helpless as his 31.9 passer rating would suggest. By comparison, Brees was nearly flawless, producing a stellar 153.2 rating.
Foles is a huge upgrade and gives the Eagles the best chance to win.
And while I think the final score will be closer this time around, the outcome will be the same as Week 11, despite Peters’ prediction.
By nightfall Sunday, the Eagles will be crying “wee, wee, wee all the way home!”