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New Orleans Saints key ingredients to victory against Eagles | 2022 NFL Week 17

Time of possession, stopping the run game could be significant

Check out the New Orleans Saints game action in Week 16 against the Cleveland Browns during the 2022 NFL season.
Check out the New Orleans Saints game action in Week 16 against the Cleveland Browns during the 2022 NFL season.

The New Orleans Saints (6-9) are pretty sure what they'll see from the Eagles (13-2) on offense Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. That doesn't make it much easier, though.

The Eagles scored 34 points against Dallas in their last game, despite committing four turnovers, so the Saints will need to be more than solid if they hope to take down the team with the best record in the NFL.

1. HOG THE BALL: No secret here. The Eagles have the highest-scoring offense (29.7 points per game) in the NFL and one of the best ways to affect that is for the Saints to have an advantage in time of possession. And the best way to do that, is to run the ball effectively. In the last two games, both victories, New Orleans ran 62 times for 286 yards and two touchdowns. Alvin Kamara accounted for 41 carries for 167 yards, and the Saints will need more of that from Kamara (he missed practice Wednesday and Thursday due to a personal matter, and returned to practice Friday). Also, Taysom Hill (16 carries for 86 yards and a touchdown in the last two) may receive some heavy use. However they do it and whomever they do it with, New Orleans needs to keep its hands on the ball and keep Philadelphia's explosive offense watching.

2. PRUNE GARDNER: It's unlikely that Jalen Hurts, listed as doubtful on Friday, will play. That's certainly not a bad thing for the Saints. In two previous matchups, Hurts has completed 30 of 54 passes for 314 yards and a touchdown, and ran 36 times for 175 yard and three touchdowns. It's no shame that New Orleans would prefer to see Gardner Minshew, with Hurts playing at an MVP level. Minshew threw for 355 yards and two touchdowns, with two interceptions, and ran for five yards and a touchdown, against Dallas. But the Eagles turned it over four times against Dallas, and Minshew is much less likely to hurt a defense with his legs than is Hurts. The Saints' defense may be able to get to Minshew and, better, force him into a turnover or two.

3. COVER AND SMOTHER: Philadelphia has one of the best receiving corps in the league. A.J. Brown, Devonta Smith and Quez Watkins are difficult to deal with, and it'll be interesting to see what New Orleans' plan is to handle them. The best plan is to harass the quarterback and disrupt timing, but when the time comes to cover, cornerbacks Alontae Taylor, Paulson Adebo and Bradley Roby not only have to play clean, but they need to be spotless in situational downs. The Saints don't need to give up first downs via defensive holding or pass interference when they're able to get the Eagles in third-and-7 or more, and otherwise have made the play to get off the field. It's critical to get off the field clean in those situations.

4. FEED SHAHEED: Rookie receiver Rashid Shaheed, it seems, has been able to come up with one chunk play per game for the Saints. New Orleans' offense hasn't had a ton of explosive plays this season, but Shaheed's fingerprints have been on more than his fair share. When New Orleans does look for a big play, Shaheed has shown he’s capable of delivering. It's difficult for an offense to construct multiple 10-play drives; Shaheed gives New Orleans a shortcut that can be taken advantage of.

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