Eagles-Saints: 3 matchups to watch on Sunday
The Eagles (3-8-1) will host the Saints (10-2) on Sunday at 4:25 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field.
Although the two conference foes are heading in opposite directions, there is intrigue surrounding a largely uninspiring Eagles team for the first time in months. The Eagles, of course, made the highly publicized switch at the quarterback position on Tuesday. On Sunday, the team will turn to rookie Jalen Hurts to command the offense.
The offense, which has been lifeless and predictable all season, will presumably receive a shot in the arm with the quarterback change. However, Hurts will have his work cut out for him against the playoff-bound Saints, who boast a swarming, attack-style defense -- which can have an adverse effect on a young signal-caller.
RB Miles Sanders vs. LBs Demario Davis, Kwon Alexander
Few would argue that Sanders has been criminally underutilized this season. In fact, the second-year running back has averaged just over 13 touches per game over the past four weeks. Sanders has been remarkably productive despite limited opportunities (118 carries), averaging 5.3 yards per carry -- fifth-best in the NFL.
With rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts at the controls this week, it is imperative the offensive game plan centers around Sanders and his ability to create in space. It also should include getting Sanders involved in the screen game, which can be an extension of the passing game. Jumpstarting the backfield early not only alleviates pressure and slows the game down for Hurts, it provides balance and rhythm to a rocky offense. Turning to the aerial attack early and often with a quarterback who has only attempted 15 passes in the NFL against one of the league's top defenses would be blatant malpractice.
That said, the Saints boast perhaps the most formidable linebacking tandem in football in Demario Davis and Kwon Alexander. Davis is the quarterback of Dennis Allen's defense and is equally effective roaming in space or playing around the line of scrimmage, and Alexander is an athletic, reactionary linebacker who covers a ton of ground. Yards won't come easy on the ground, but the team must stay committed, or things could quickly spiral.
LT Jordan Mailata vs. DE Trey Hendrickson
Mailata continues to improve each week, but his progress will be tested this week by the Saints' Trey Hendrickson. The fourth-year edge rusher enters Week 14 tied for third in the NFL in sacks (10.5).
The 6-foot-4, 270-pound Hendrickson has lived on the other side of the line of scrimmage this season (10 tackles for loss) and will be key to setting the edge against the run and collapsing the pocket against an inexperienced Hurts. Hendrickson has an explosive get-off, possesses a wide range of pass rush moves, and uses his quickness and power to engage linemen early.
In arguably the most critical matchup on Sunday's game, the Eagles will need Mailata to rise to the occasion.
LB Alex Singleton vs. QB Taysom Hill
With fellow linebacker T.J. Edwards sidelined this week, Singleton becomes the team's most experienced linebacker. While the 27-year-old has been a pleasant surprise and helped invigorate the worst second level in football, the Packers exploited blemishes in his game that could resurface this week.
Sure, Taysom Hill isn't likely to dissect Singleton in the passing game like Aaron Rodgers. Still, the fleet-footed signal-caller will almost assuredly test Singleton's eye discipline and spatial awareness on short throws and misdirection runs. The Eagles, who have been victimized on the ground by Lamar Jackson, Daniel Jones, and others, must find a way to minimize those back-breaking plays and force Hill to produce with his arm.