Eagles offense vs. Saints defense

As well as the Eagles played in beating the Dallas Cowboys, they still managed just 10 points, and even if you give them that Brian Westbrook touchdown, the total would have been 17. Until the Eagles figure out how to score inside the 20-yard line, they're going to be condemned to mediocrity, at best. Today's game provides the Eagles and quarterback Donovan McNabb a chance to put up big passing numbers, because the Saints' secondary, a problem last year, remains a major weakness. The Saints' 27 sacks are tied for 22d in the league. The defensive line has 15 sacks, just 2½ more than Eagles defensive end Trent Cole. Wide receiver Kevin Curtis has a chance to have a big day if the Saints are unable to pressure McNabb, and the Eagles also should try to exploit Westbrook against the safeties and linebackers.

EDGE: Eagles

Eagles defense vs. Saints offense

What happened to Drew Brees in the Saints' first four games remains one of life's great mysteries, but the quarterback has returned to elite status. He is every bit as dangerous as Tony Romo was when the Eagles went into Dallas last Sunday. Aaron Stecker was No. 3 on the depth chart at running back when this season started, but he's run better than Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush in the Saints' last two victories. The Eagles will have a real challenge trying to stop Marques Colston, a seventh-round pick last year who has emerged as the best receiver in the 2006 draft. Like Terrell Owens, Colston, a Harrisburg native, is fast and physical. It'll be interesting to see if defensive coordinator Jim Johnson tries to shadow Colston with cornerback Lito Sheppard, as he did last week on Owens. Look for the Saints to attack rookie linebackers Akeem Jordan and Stewart Bradley early in the game. Neither has any real NFL experience on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive end Trent Cole and the rest of the Eagles' line will have trouble getting to Brees because he has one of the quickest releases in the league. He has been sacked 12 times, a league low. Tampa Bay is responsible for five of those sacks, and the Bucs beat the Saints twice.

EDGE: Saints

Special teams

Like the Eagles, the Saints' return game lacks explosiveness. Rookie Pierre Thomas handles kickoff returns and is 18th in the league with a 23.8-yard average. Lance Moore handles most of the punt returns and has a 9.5-yard average. Olindo Mare has made just 10 of 17 field goals this season.

EDGE: Even


The game has playoff meaning for the Saints, and the Eagles, for the second straight week, are taking a long flight south, to play for pride.