It is likely that five of six playoff spots in the NFC are accounted for. With Green Bay at 6-3 and currently occupying the fifth seed there is no reason to believe that New York, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, and the Packers will do anything to jeopardize their postseason future. That leaves one remaining spot. Despite very bad starts, with a win tonight Philadelphia and New Orleans would be very much alive in the drive for the sixth golden ticket.
The final playoff spot is currently occupied by Seattle at 5-4. The Eagles come into play this evening at 3-4 and having dropped three straight. It is probable that Philadelphia has only one game remaining against a playoff quality opponent. Meanwhile after losing their first four games, the Saints are 2-5. New Orleans must go at least 7-2 in their final nine to be in the postseason bracket and with contests against the Giants, Niners and versus Atlanta twice, today is a must win.
A loss for the Eagles tonight may lead to rookie Nick Foles taking over the offense. Rumors that he would replace Michael Vick at QB were squashed by coach Andy Reid last week. Philadelphia's minus nine in turnover margin ranks better than only one team in the NFC. Vick's eight interceptions and three fumbles account for 11 of the 17 Eagles giveaways this season.
As for New Orleans, besides Drew Brees and the passing game, it has been a nightmare of a season. The Saints are the worst rushing team in the NFL and will be without dual-threat RB Darren Sproles (hand) for at least this week and likely one or two more games. New Orleans ranks last in the NFL in both pass defense and stopping the run. For the season the Saints have allowed an average of 475 yards per game, more than 60 yards worse than any other squad in the league.
It would behoove the Eagles to rely on RB LeSean McCoy. The Pro Bowler can alleviate pressure from Vick and keep Brees off the field if he can take advantage of the consistently mediocre New Orleans defense. McCoy has scored a touchdown in each of Philadelphia's last three games. However, he has not gone for more than 100 yards in a contest since facing the Giants on September 30.
As is normal, the Saints will need to outscore Philadelphia in order to win. New Orleans is 2-1 when they score 30 points or more and 0-4 for when they fail to hit 30. Brees continues to put up Pro Bowl numbers even without coach Sean Payton who is suspended for the season due to his part in the bounty scandal. Brees leads the league in passing yards per game and only Aaron Rodgers has thrown more TD's.
While a win only guarantees playing meaningful games for another week or two, a loss would put both teams in a virtually impossible position to make the playoffs. If the Eagles falter, Vick and Reid may be seeking employment elsewhere. If New Orleans falls the countdown to Mardi Gras will be significantly more relevant and shorter than waiting for a Saints playoff appearance.