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Saints vs. Eagles prediction: Expect a low-scoring affair Sunday at The Linc

With both offenses banged up, bet on a defensive battle when New Orleans visits Philadelphia

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown (center) sits on the turf after injuring his knee in last week's game at Dallas. Brown is questionable for Sunday's battle with the New Orleans Saints at Lincoln Financial Field. (Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images)
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown (center) sits on the turf after injuring his knee in last week's game at Dallas. Brown is questionable for Sunday's battle with the New Orleans Saints at Lincoln Financial Field. (Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images)Read moreSam Hodde / Getty Images

For the most part, the Philadelphia Eagles dodged the injury bug for the first four months of this season — a huge reason why they won 13 of their first 14 games.

Then came the last two weeks.

First, quarterback and MVP candidate Jalen Hurts went down with a sprained right (throwing) shoulder. The injury forced Hurts to sit out last week’s game at Dallas.

Not only did the Eagles fall 40-34 to the Cowboys, but three offensive starters got banged up: right tackle Lane Johnson (abdomen), wide receiver A.J. Brown (knee) and running back Miles Sanders (knee).

Not that Philadelphia will be getting a sympathy card from Sunday’s opponent.

The New Orleans Saints arrive at Lincoln Financial Field with a 6-8 record, the faintest of playoff hopes and an injury list as long as Bourbon Street — including a bunch of important contributors on offense.

All of which leaves us leaning toward a defensive slugfest with our Saints vs. Eagles prediction.

Odds updated as of 2:45 p.m. Dec. 30.

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Saints vs. Eagles Prediction

  1. Under 42.5 (at FanDuel)

Saints vs. Eagles Prediction: Analysis

Whoever is sticking pins in an Eagles voodoo doll, well, it’s working.

Let’s start with Johnson, who suffered a serious abdominal injury against Dallas and will sit out the rest of the regular season.

The loss of Johnson, who earned his fourth Pro Bowl nod this season, will have a significant ripple effect on the offensive line. It also likely means Hurts will sit out another week.

The Eagles’ quarterback did test his ailing shoulder in practice Thursday and is officially listed as questionable. However, it’s difficult to see coach Nick Sirianni taking any chances with his most important player, especially with a lineman of Johnson’s caliber out of action.

Backup quarterback Gardner Minshew played well in Hurts’ absence last week. Yes, he tossed two interceptions, but Minshew passed for 355 yards and two scores, ran for a third and led the Eagles to 34 points.

But that was with Johnson, Sanders (65 rushing yards) and Brown (six catches, 103 yards) by his side.

Minshew won’t have Johnson on Sunday, and Brown and Sanders were managing injuries during the week.

With the offense far less than whole, it’s highly doubtful Philadelphia will come close to matching its NFL-best 29.7 points-per-game-scoring average — let alone the 36.4-point average the team has posted over the past five weeks.

Heck, that would’ve been difficult even if the Eagles’ offense was 100 percent. That’s because the Saints’ defense has been one of the NFL’s stingiest over the past two months.

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Only the Ravens (27-13 win) have scored more than 20 points against New Orleans in the last eight games. During this stretch, the Saints are yielding just 15.6 points per contest — a huge turnaround from the first half of the season when opponents were averaging 28.6 points.

In the last four weeks alone, New Orleans has shut down San Francisco (13 points), Tampa Bay (17), Atlanta (18) and Cleveland (10). And 14 for the 17 points the Bucs scored came in the final three minutes when the Saints had a complete Monday night meltdown.

Unfortunately for New Orleans, the offense hasn’t capitalized on the defense’s dominance. Since a 24-0 win over the Raiders on Oct. 30, the Saints have scored just 14.9 points in seven contests — including 17, 21, 16 and zero the last four weeks.

That’s why they’re just 3-4 over the seven-game stretch and need a minor miracle to win the NFC South, which is the team’s only path to the playoffs. New Orleans must win its final two games and hope Tampa Bay loses its final two.

The first part is going to be difficult, because the Saints’ offense is just as dinged up as Philadelphia’s.

Wide receivers Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry have been on injured reserve for weeks. Also, standout rookie wideout Chris Olave (hamstring) missed last week’s game at Cleveland and is doubtful.

Additionally, versatile running back Alvin Kamara (quad) is questionable, as are a pair of starting offensive linemen (one of whom — guard Andrus Peat — probably won’t suit up).

Given all the missing and hobbled pieces, we expect both coaches to script conservative game plans and lean on their healthier defenses to carry the day.

That should lead to a low-scoring contest, which is something the Eagles aren’t used to — in fact, Philly is 8-2 to the Over in its last 10 games.

Only one of those had fewer than 43 combined points. Then again, Hurts was at the controls of the offense until last week (and he had Johnson, Brown and Sanders fully healthy).

Meanwhile, New Orleans has stayed Under the total in seven of its last eight, including the last four in a row. All seven of those Unders ended with 40 points or less.

Look for a similar result Sunday, with the Eagles prevailing something like 20-16 to finally clinch the NFC East, a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Saints vs. Eagles Odds: (via FanDuel)

  1. Point spread: Saints (+6.5) @ Eagles (-6.5)

  2. Moneyline: Saints (+240) @ Eagles (-295)

  3. Total: 42.5 points

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