Nick Foles is the Philadelphia Eagles good-luck charm, and after fighting past the Chicago Bears in the Wild Card round, Philly will face an equally tough test in the top-seeded New Orleans Saints.
While Carson Wentz is seen as the “quarterback of the future” for the Philadelphia Eagles, the small murmurs supporting Nick Foles could crescendo into a steady scream if Nick Foles is able to pull off another huge victory in the NFC Divisional round game against the New Orleans Saints this Sunday.
The sixth-seeded Eagles survived a last-gasp comeback attempt from the Chicago Bears, as Doug Pederson successfully iced kicker Cody Parker, who played for the Eagles in 2014-15, to punch Philadelphia’s ticket into the second round of the playoffs against the top-seeded Saints.
Foles had a poor first half and finished with two interceptions, but he more than made up for the miscues against the league’s scariest defense, leading a game-winning drive that was punctuated by a score to mid-season trade acquisition Golden Tate.
He will have to be more consistent from start-to-finish against a well-rested Saints team that boasts future Hall of Famer Drew Brees at quarterback, the running back tandem of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, elite wideout Michael Thomas, and a defense that can create turnovers.
The Saints blew out the Eagles 48-7 earlier this season in Week 11, forcing Wentz into three interceptions while Brees toasted a depleted secondary to the tune of 363 passing yards, four touchdowns, and a 153.2 QB Rating.
But while that result may make it seem like the Eagles have plenty of climbing to do, the Saints have looked more vulnerable since their mighty string of wins against the Los Angeles Rams (the NFC’s No. 2 seed), the Cincinnati Bengals, and Philadelphia. The Dallas Cowboys shut them down in primetime in Week 13, and just a few weeks later, New Orleans was a fluky JuJu Smith-Schuster fumble away from one more loss.
That said, the Saints were able to rest their starters in Week 17 for a reason; they’ve been an elite force in the NFC for much of the 2018-19 season. The Eagles have looked like a rejuvenated team over the past several weeks, clinching a Wild Card spot, and they’ve already proven that this roster is championship material. But going on the road and defeating Brees in the Superdome is no easy task.
The Eagles elite front seven will do all it can to fluster the Saints star quarterback by taking advantage of an offensive line that heads into this matchup with several important players limited in practice. Brees will bring it, so the onus is on Foles to match him blow-for-blow.
Foles completed 72.3 percent of his passes during the regular season, averaging 7.2 yards per attempt and over 280 passing yards per game. He saved his best work for the Eagles must-win games, spearheading an upset of the Rams, dominating the AFC’s third-seeded Houston Texans with 471 yards and four touchdowns, and shredding Washington’s defense into bits.
If the Eagles can beat the Rams and Bears, it stands to reason that they’ll be able to give the Saints a run for their money. This is clearly a different, more focused version of the Eagles than the team New Orleans blew out in Week 11, and if Foles keeps it up, perhaps more fans start to believe that he is the reason for this upward swing.
Even though quarterbacks tend to get credited or blamed as the team goes, it’s important to note how the entire Eagles team has stepped up since the calendar turned to December. Alshon Jeffery, for example, has looked every bit the elite wide receiver over the past several weeks, catching six passes for 82 yards in a critical Wild Card performance against his old team in Chicago.
That said, because it’s so easy to focus on the quarterback position, Foles, who led the Eagles to a Super Bowl victory last year after an injury cut Wentz’s MVP-caliber season short, could create a quarterback controversy in the minds of some fans with another star-level performance. Beating the 13-3 Saints (essentially 13-2) in the Superdome would be huge, and Foles has already come up big in the clutch time after time for the Philadelphia fans.
Most Eagles fans seem to understand that this is Wentz’s team, and that any of the 26-year-old’s struggles this season can be attributed to the former No. 2 overall pick working his way back from a major injury. They appreciate Foles’s work and recognize his own ability at the quarterback position, but Wentz owns this team.
Perhaps that could change with another big performance from Foles, and perhaps teams could come calling for one of these quarterbacks – a desperation trade for Wentz, or a risky contract for Foles. After all, Foles now has three career seasons with more than 7.0 yards per pass attempt, and another deep playoff run could be truly enticing for quarterback-hungry teams around the league.
Until 4:40 p.m. ET on Sunday when the Eagles take the field against the Saints in New Orleans, this is all speculation. And it’s important to note that while Foles has shined and helped lead the Eagles to victory after victory, the loss to the Saints was the only time this year in which Wentz, who wasn’t truly at 100-percent, lost by more than one score. If anything, Wentz, who completed nearly 70.0 percent of his passes with 7.7 yards per attempt and a superior TD:INT ratio to Foles, was unlucky to have “lost” (quarterback wins aren’t a real stat, after all) so frequently.
Despite all of this additional context, fans love controversies and they love results. Another strong performance by Foles against an elite team in the postseason – with an additional revenge story – could help shape a narrative as the Eagles march towards a rare successful defense of the Super Bowl title.