NFL wildcard weekend: Philadelphia Eagles v New Orleans Saints at Lincoln Financial Field
The Saints will have to stop LeSean McCoy and the Eagles offence to win a play-off game on the road for the first time.
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH
Last Updated: 04/01/14 1:56pm
This one could be the wildest of wildcard match-ups, not only in terms of the weather but also in attacking intent and points on the board, as long as the snow is not too deep...
Home sweet home
There could hardly be more of a difference between being at home or on the road for the Saints - they are 8-0 inside their beloved Superdome and 3-5 away from it, while they are also 0-5 on the road in play-off games.
If they are to win a first play-off game away from The Big Easy they will have to get to grips with a feverish home crowd at Lincoln Financial Field, an improving Eagles defence, and also the winter storm that has hit the North East.
The Eagles hardly enjoyed home advantage when stretching their losing streak to ten games at home with four straight defeats to start the season, but they've been perfect since then while the Saints have lost all three games on the road against play-off teams this year.
The Eagles won seven of their last eight to take the NFC East, although only one of those teams are now in the play-offs, and their win in a snow bowl against Detroit could prove handy if similar conditions occur on Saturday.
The Saints are a different team away from home, averaging 17.8 points on the road compared to 34 in New Orleans - and that just won't cut it against Philly's offence at home. Defeats at the Jets and Rams are the most troubling on their record.
Coach Chip Kelly has made a huge impact in Philly and his offence has produced history as the Eagles are the first team to have a quarterback with a 100+ passer rating, a 1,600-yard rusher and 1,300 yard receiver in the same season.
Nick Foles has been a revelation since replacing Michael Vick at QB, but it will be a step into the unknown as he tackles a play-off game for the first time. NFL rushing champion LeSean McCoy would be in the MVP mix but for Peyton Manning and receiver DeSean Jackson can make plays from anywhere. The Saints' defence has improved from last year's pathetic efforts but finding a way to slow down this high-rolling attack could be beyond them.
QB class mates
Drew Brees and Nick Foles actually went to the same high school in Austin, Texas, albeit a decade apart, with Foles breaking Brees' passing yards and touchdown records - and there is some similarity in their prolific passing style in the NFL.
Foles went 8-2 as the starter this season with 27 TDs and just two interceptions, while Brees passed 5,000 yards, again, with 5,162 yards and 39 TDs this season in another spectacular campaign that is almost becoming routine for him - and would look a lot better without Manning's exploits.
Philadelphia have had trouble handling tight ends this season and now face Jimmy Graham, who even with a niggling foot injury managed a league-leading 16 TDs this season. The Saints will look for him, a lot, to carry the load.
Pierre Thomas led the way with an NFL-best 77 receptions for a running back this season but will miss the game through injury, and that means Darren Sproles has to step up by making plays out of the backfield. He's had injury problems as well but will need to be at full speed it is a main tactics of the Saints.
McCoy totalled 2,146 yards from scrimmage this season, New Orleans allowed the fifth-most yards per rushing attempt in the league, and that is not an equation that will give heart to Saints fans.
Plenty of questions to answer on both teams, and all signs do point to a shootout. The Saints have Super Bowl winning experience, the Eagles have an exciting and diverse offence but little experience. Given the struggles for the Saints on the road, and the possible bad weather, the Eagles seem more likely to pinch this one.