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Week 5 Preview: Saints at Eagles

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New Orleans Saints (1-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-3)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia – TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis

*Keys to the game: The Eagles are averaging 3.1 yards per carry, a rather miraculous measure of success when you consider 35 of the team’s 89 rushing attempts involved first defensive contact behind the line of scrimmage. Coach Chip Kelly did his best to light a fire under RB DeMarco Murray, who wants more touches, but Murray’s 1.7 yards-per-carry average prompts wonderment about giving that work to Darren Sproles and Ryan Mathews. QB Sam Bradford displayed positives in the pocket for the first time since Week 1 with three second-half touchdowns in defeat at Washington last week. He’s looking beyond his primary reads, and should see green grass in front of his receivers against a Saints secondary yet to intercept a pass.

The Eagles aren’t crashing the pocket and QB Drew Brees can thrive with time to set and throw if he’s willing to take the short outlet. Last week, 26 of the Redskins’ 36 completions were within six yards of the line of scrimmage. New Orleans is finding some success flipping the ball out to RBs Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller, who took a swing pass 80 yards for a game-winner last Sunday. Brees is still fighting a bruised shoulder but said he’s close to full strength.

*Matchup to watch – Saints WR Willie Snead vs. Eagles secondary: Snead entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent and was cut twice before he latched on with the Saints. He’s averaging 15 yards per reception and getting first-read attention from Brees. The Eagles were unable to stop the Redskins’ two-minute offense last week and tackling in the secondary remains worrisome.

*Player spotlight – Eagles LB Jordan Hicks: The rookie figured to spend his first NFL season primarily on special teams. But injuries to ILBs Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks changed that. Hicks, the team’s third-round pick out of Texas, has played 156 of 160 snaps the past two games and has an interception, two fumble recoveries and a sack that sent Cowboys QB Tony Romo to the sideline.

*Fast facts: The Eagles rank 31st in the NFL in third-down conversion percentage (26.5). … Opponents average 6.5 yards per play against the Saints.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

Stunted by injuries and erratic line play, the Saints and Eagles aren’t the powder-keg offenses many expected. Facing defenses with their own assorted maladies makes for a one-week revival and entertaining shootout that goes the Eagles’ way.

*Our pick: Eagles 30-27.


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