The last time the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles faced each other, the Saints handed the Eagles the biggest loss ever for a defending Super Bowl champion. It looked like the Saints even ran up the score a bit in the 48-7 win.
A lot has changed since then, mostly with the Eagles. Nick Foles took over quarterback from the injured Carson Wentz and the 6-7 Eagles have won four in a row. That includes last week’s wild-card playoff win over the Chicago Bears. The Eagles should put up a much better fight against the Saints this time.
Here are the top sleepers from each team for Sunday afternoon’s divisional-round playoff game:
New Orleans Saints QB Taysom Hill
There’s a good reason announcers gush about Hill every Saints broadcast, presumably after New Orleans coach Sean Payton gushes about Hill in production meetings with the broadcast team.
Hill is a unique player, and the Saints use him as such. It must take a special player to take the ball out of Drew Brees’ hands, which happens when No. 7 lines up at quarterback.
Hill ended up playing 182 offensive snaps this season, about 17.3 percent of the Saints’ offensive snaps. He played double-digit snaps in 10 of the Saints’ last 13 games. You should see a lot of him on Sunday afternoon, and the Saints will use him in many creative ways.
It’s usually old-school football when Hill is at quarterback. He threw only seven passes all season, completing three for 64 yards. Defenses have to pay attention to the threat of the pass from the former BYU quarterback, but he’s most likely to run. Hill had 37 rushing attempts for 196 yards and a pair of touchdowns. At 221 pounds, Hill is a fantastic athlete and a tough runner.
“He was the strongest player on our team, the fastest player on our team and the best athlete at any position on our team,” Bronco Mendenhall, Hill’s coach at BYU, told the Washington Post. “And it wasn’t close.”
Hill can also impact Sunday’s game on special teams. He had 14 kickoff returns with a 24.9-yard average. His blocked punt against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 14 was the key play in a win, turning a game around that the Saints trailed 14-3 at the time of Hill’s big play.
Hill will line up just about anywhere on the field when the Saints use him, from quarterback to tight end. He’ll be on special teams. And with the bye week to get creative, it’s a good bet Payton has some special plans for Hill.
Philadelphia Eagles TE Dallas Goedert
The Eagles didn’t need Goedert when they traded up to take him in the second round of the 2018 draft, moving ahead of the Dallas Cowboys to pick him. But they saw the possibilities of having Goedert and Zach Ertz on the same offense.
Ertz set a single-season record for receptions by a tight end this season, and the Saints will see plenty of him in Sunday’s playoff game. But Goedert will be a big part of the offense too.
Goedert had only two catches for 20 yards last week, but they were two of the bigger plays of the Eagles’ win. He had a touchdown early in the game. Then with the Eagles trailing late, Goedert made some spectacular moves on a second-and-10, getting a first down. The Eagles scored the game-winning touchdown at the end of that drive.
Goedert was a contributor in the first half of the season, then got lost a bit in the offense. From Weeks 10-13, Goedert failed to catch a pass in three of four games. But Goedert has caught multiple passes in all five games since then. He’s a big, athletic matchup problem, and benefits from Ertz getting a lot of defensive attention.
The Eagles’ top receiver this season was Ertz, but their second tight end is pretty good too, and Goedert might end up playing an important role again on Sunday.
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