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Eagles beat writers make their predictions for the Saints game in Week 11

The Saints' rush defense presents a challenge to the resurgent Eagles running game.

Eagles running back Kenneth Gainwell runs with the football past Denver Broncos safety Kareem Jackson on Sunday, November 14, 2021 in Denver.
Eagles running back Kenneth Gainwell runs with the football past Denver Broncos safety Kareem Jackson on Sunday, November 14, 2021 in Denver.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

The Eagles will host the Saints on Sunday. Here are the game predictions from our Eagles beat writers for Week 11:

Jeff McLane

My perfect record ended last week. My gut said pick Eagles, but I went Broncos, thinking that Pat Shurmur’s absence would actually help their offense, and that, of course, proved to be stupid rationale. Nick Sirianni has found the formula for sustaining offensive efficiency, which, in turn, has helped the defense, at least in two of the last three games. It should be enough to conceivably keep them competitive in most games from here on out.

That said, the Saints may present the greatest challenge to the Eagles’ run-based tendencies. Their run defense is No. 1 in Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings, and in more traditional statistics like yards rushing per game (72.9) and per carry (3.07), the Saints are also atop the NFL. New Orleans entered what was supposed to be a lopsided affair last season with a similarly ranked defense. But the Eagles, with Jalen Hurts making his first start, ran roughshod over Cam Jordan, Demario Davis, and company. Miles Sanders had the big run — an 83-yard bolt by Malcolm Jenkins — but the Saints couldn’t account for Hurts on the ground.

A year later, in a new system, the Eagles have found success without Sanders. But the running back is likely to return Sunday. How he will fit in with Jordan Howard, Boston Scott, and Kenneth Gainwell remains to be seen, but more talent can’t be a bad thing. Right? Still, Sirianni will have to be prepared to stray from the blueprint if there isn’t much running room. Hurts has shown steady improvement with fewer drops, but can he handle 25-plus pass attempts? This could be his greatest test yet.

On the other side of the ball, the Saints are Drew Brees-less as they were last season, but he’s retired and Sean Payton’s offense has struggled with consistency, especially after quarterback Jameis Winston’s injury. His replacement, Trevor Siemian, has been fine. But the Saints just don’t have the weapons they once did, and Alvin Kamara can do only so much and also missed practice on Thursday with a knee injury. Jonathan Gannon could have another week when his defense isn’t allowing another 80%-plus completion percentage.

I think the Eagles have made strides the last few weeks, and as I said earlier, I should have chosen them last week. But my intuition says that the Saints defense won’t get fooled again. No, no.

Prediction: Saints 29, Eagles 23

EJ Smith

Can Jalen Hurts outdo a vaunted Saints defense a second year in a row?

Hurts has made plenty of strides since his first career start, last Dec. 13 against New Orleans, but the element of surprise is gone. The Saints defense is just as good this season, and it might be better-suited to stop this iteration of the Eagles offense. The Saints have the best run defense in the league and it might not even be close. They’re allowing 3.1 yards per carry; the next team is allowing 3.7. Defense-adjusted value over average tells a similar story: The Saints are 7% better than the next-best run defense.

Where does that leave the Eagles? Their offensive identity, centered on a line moving people in the run game and Hurts making explosive plays in the pass game, has been quite productive against lesser defenses. This game against the Saints will be an important test on whether the recent success is more a product of poor opponents or a true indication of where the Eagles offense is.

On the flip side of the ball, the question is whether Sean Payton can overcome the shortcomings of Trevor Siemian. Siemian, possibly missing both his starting offensive tackles and running back Alvin Kamara because of injury, will be a respite for Jonathan Gannon, but Payton will be quite the opposite.

This game feels like a toss-up. The Saints are more talented, but the Eagles are healthier and they’re seemingly eager to get their first win at the Linc. I wouldn’t count them out, especially considering how far a win would go toward their playoff odds, but the Saints’ run defense is too good to ignore.

Prediction: Saints 28, Eagles 27

Josh Tolentino

In a matchup of strengths, this game could come down to the home team’s rushing offense against the visitor’s rushing defense.

It’s unlikely the Eagles continue their hot trend against a defense that allows a league-low 72.9 rushing yards per game. But if the backfield is able to establish any type of rhythm, New Orleans could be in trouble. There’s also a chance lead tailback Miles Sanders is activated from injured reserve. Sanders missed the last three games with a low-ankle sprain. During that span, the Eagles quickly redefined their offensive approach and established themselves as the best rushing offense in the NFC.

With two wins over the last three weeks, the Eagles have taken steps in playing complementary football. They’ve forced big turnovers, including Darius Slay’s 83-yard fumble return for a touchdown, gashed defenses with a potent running game, and blocked multiple kicks on special teams. The Saints defense is still very good, but the offense has been underwhelming post-Drew Brees.

The Eagles are desperate for a home win (0-4 at Lincoln Financial Field), and they’ve been emphasizing the point all week throughout practice. My guess is that message is well received by Hurts and company on game day. Chalk up home victory No. 1 for the Birds.

Prediction: Eagles 27, Saints 21