The Philadelphia Eagles have St. Nick, and he hasn’t let them down in the clutch. The problem on Sunday is that New Orleans has a lot of Saints — and a stronger team.
Nick Foles has been nothing short of superb in replacing Carson Wentz, first in the 2017 season when he guided Philly to its first NFL championship since 1960. And now, with Wentz again injured, Foles helped the Eagles slalom their way to an NFC wild-card berth.
Then, as in last February’s Super Bowl win over New England, he drove the Eagles to a late winning touchdown at Chicago.
Can he keep it up? He’ll have to against Drew Brees & Co. in the Superdome, where the Saints annihilated the Eagles 48-7 on Nov 18, Philadelphia’s only loss by more than seven points all season.
From there, the Eagles have won six of seven, counting the 16-15 decision over the Bears last week.
“It’s a credit to the players and the coaches for just kind of staying in the moment, just trying to win the week, starting with today,” coach Doug Pederson says. “Just win today and then win tomorrow, try to go 1-0 each week. That’s been the mentality and the mindset all season, even during those couple weeks of adversity in there.
“You still have to have a belief that we can get it done. The players do believe. They just come to work every day ready to go. There’s great leadership on the team. It’s really kind of held us together and pulled us through this stretch, and really the last three games of the regular season, I mean, they were all must win. Guys really understood what we needed to do, came together. They’ve jelled and here we are today.”
Where they are is ranked No. 12 in the final AP Pro32 and 8-point underdogs against No. 1 New Orleans. It’s hard not to share the faith in Foles and the Eagles after seeing what they have done. Then again, looking at their secondary and how Chicago found lots of open room, it’s impossible not to believe in the home team.
No. 5 (tie) Los Angeles Chargers (plus 4) at No. 5 (tie) New England, Sunday
Let’s begin by mentioning that the Chargers are the better team. Right now, they might be the best overall team in the league. Should they win at Gillette Stadium, Pro Picks will be tempted to ride them all the way to and through Atlanta.
However, Philip Rivers never beats Tom Brady (0-7 is quite an ugly number) and the Patriots are the only unbeaten home team this season. Plus, the weather could be a factor, which always favors New England.
BEST BET: PATRIOTS, 23-16
No. 8 Indianapolis (plus 5) at No. 4 Kansas City, Saturday.
Last weekend’s most impressive squad? The Colts, by far.
Indeed, over the last two months, it’s difficult to find any team that has been more dangerous and dynamic than Indianapolis. Andrew Luck, finally healthy, is playing at his highest level. The offensive line is a wall, the defense has become a force, and the coaching is first-rate.
The Chiefs have so much going for them when they have the ball, led by Patrick Mahomes’ passing in Andy Reid’s brilliant schemes. They have hardly anything except a pass rush going for them on defense, and Indy doesn’t allow sacks or even much pressure on Luck.
Plus, the Colts are 4-0 in the playoffs against Kansas City, which hasn’t gotten to a conference title game since the 1993 season.
UPSET SPECIAL: COLTS, 26-24
No. 11 Dallas (plus 7) at No. 2 Los Angeles Rams, Saturday night
Another prime-time showcase for Ezekiel Elliott, and he’ll need to be extremely productive, as he was vs. Seattle.
So, though, will his counterpart, Todd Gurley, likely back from a knee injury and crucial to the Rams advancing.
Dallas has a solid enough defense to keep the creative Rams off-balance, especially if Gurley is limited. Los Angeles has not looked like a power in the last month and needed to straighten out some issues in the bye week.
Still, we can’t see an upset here.
Last Week: Against spread (4-0). Straight up (2-2)
Season Totals: Against spread (133-110-9). Straight up: (171-87-2)
Best Bet: 7-11 against spread, 12-6 straight up
Upset special: 10-8 against spread, 9-8-1 straight up