Carson Wentz will look on the other sideline on Sunday and see New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and the NFL's highest-scoring offense. No matter what the Eagles offense says about not worrying about the opposing offense, it can't expect to play the Saints in the teens and low-20s like most of their games this season.
If there was ever a time in which the Eagles needed to look like their 2017 unit, it's this weekend at the Superdome.
"We'd love to go out on offense and put up 50 every week," Wentz said. "That's the mentality we take in there, no matter who we're playing."
Fifty doesn't always cut it against the Saints, who scored 51 points last weekend and average a league-high 36.7 points this season. The Eagles are 21st in the NFL with 22 points per game – nearly a touchdown fewer than last season.
The Eagles' biggest problem has come in the first quarter, where their 21 points are the fewest in the NFL – even worse than poor offensive teams such as Buffalo and Arizona. The Eagles have the 11th-most points in the second half of games this season; their problems come because they're prone to playing from behind.
"It's nothing really world-beating or earth-shattering that's glaring," Wentz said. "It's little things here and there that add up. That's kind of been the theme of the year in some of those losses, just little things are kind of hurting us. We know they're correctable. We see them. We talk about them all the time. We're confident we're going to get it right. We don't want to overplay it or anything."
The Saints, who have won eight straight since losing the season opener, led at halftime in six of those wins. A slow start for the Eagles – like their 13-3 deficit last Sunday against Dallas – would cripple their chances of escaping with an upset.
The Eagles defense is holding opponents to an average of 14.75 points in their four wins this season. The Saints average more than 19 points in the first half of games, so it's unrealistic to expect the Eagles to do that in New Orleans.
"We realize that, as of late, they've gotten up on teams early," Wentz said. "We have a ton of confidence in our defense. But that's a heck of an offense over there. We have high expectations and standards on the offensive side of the ball. We realize we have some things we need to clean up. Especially in situational football."
When coach Doug Pederson tried to identify what ails his underachieving team, he pointed to a lack of "turnovers on defense and then scoring in the red zone." He recited statistics that show how similar the Eagles are to last year's Super Bowl team. The stat he did not mention was points per game, but he noted "we have to finish better, and we have to score more points."
To Pederson's point, the Eagles' yards per game is actually better than last season at this point. Wentz's numbers are better than his MVP-caliber campaign. But it doesn't matter how many yards the Eagles cover if the drives don't finish in the end zone. The offense is averaging 2.4 touchdowns per game. Last year, the offense averaged 2.9 touchdowns per game. (It helped that the defense contributed touchdowns, too.) Without turnovers, the offense has needed to navigate longer fields.
"That all affects, I think, the scoring," Pederson said. "You look around the league and teams might get a big special teams return or a touchdown on special teams. Defenses are creating turnovers or a pick-six or a scoop-and-score. Those all affect scoring. Those are things this season, if I had to sit and … and say if there is an area we need to improve, those are the areas. Overall execution offensively has been there. Can we get better? Yeah. Defense, can we finish better? Yeah. Can we tackle better? Yeah. Those are areas that our guys understand and need to do each week."
It will be a challenge to force turnovers this weekend. Brees has only one interception. Even with the Saints' seven lost fumbles, their eight turnovers are among the fewest in the NFL.
The Eagles' defensive players know the lack of game-changing plays has been a problem. They also know that red-zone defense will be paramount to limiting the Saints' points. But it's also time for the Eagles offense to finally play to its potential.
It starts with Wentz, who is facing Brees for the first time. It's the rare matchup in which Wentz is the less-ballyhooed quarterback. For the Eagles to win, though, they're going to need him to keep pace – and eventually outpace – the Saints offense.