Nov 5, 2012, 1:05 PM EDT
At 17.1 points per game, Philadelphia features the NFL’s 28th ranked scoring offense in the NFL, while they have also given the ball away 17 times, tied for the fourth-most. Their inability to protect the football and convert opportunities into points is the biggest reasons why the Eagles are standing at 3-4 today.
Tonight the Birds will be faced with their best opportunity to break that trend when they face off against the league’s worst defense in New Orleans.
How bad is the Saints’ defense? Two clubs have surrendered more points than New Orleans this year — Tennessee and Buffalo — but none can even come close in yards allowed. The Saints are dead last at 474.7 yards per game, with the next closest being the Bills at 417.9. That’s a difference of 56.8 YPG, a gap that is larger than the one separating Buffalo from the next 10 defenses.
New Orleans is not much better in one phase than another, either. They’ve allowed the most rushing yards per game this season (170.1), though just barely. The Bills are right there with them (169.5), and are probably actually a worse unit based on a per carry average and touchdowns. Either way, that’s nearly 30 yards more on the ground than the 30th ranked run defense.
Yet amazingly, the Saints’ pass defense might be an even bigger issue. After an idle Sunday, New Orleans dropped to 31st in YPG (304.6), and they are last place in a slew of other categories. 9.1 yards per attempts is a full tick above the 29th-ranked pass D, and not surprisingly, opposing quarterbacks are most efficient versus the Saints with a passer rating of 110.6.
One lesson for Eagles fans: it just goes to show a defensive coordinator is only as good as the talent he has to work with. Back in January, the city was clamoring for Steve Spagnuolo, who had been fired from his head coaching job in St. Louis. He wound up in New Orleans, which seemed like a great gig at the time, but the roster is lacking the parts to succeed on that side of the football.
Whether the Birds are able to take advantage is another story. The offensive line is down to two starters from last season’s group — Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans — and LeSean McCoy is averaging 2.6 yards per carry over the last three games behind the patchwork unit.
While that disappointing trend figures to break on Monday, the Eagles will likely need to put points on the board to keep up with Drew Brees, and that means an improved effort from Michael Vick, too. Vick has done some things well in recent weeks. He’s completed over 60% of his passes in four consecutive games, and thrown six touchdowns to just two interceptions. However, he’s also been inconsistent, and the offense simply hasn’t scored enough.
Even if Vick does snap out of his funk tonight, and tosses his best game of the season, what will it mean? Picking apart the Saints’ miserable defense will hardly restore confidence in the offense.
On second thought, perhaps the real question is what will it mean if Vick can’t move his troops up and down the field and into the end zone?
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