Our Eagles vs. Saints predictions for Week 17 of the NFL season

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Our Eagles vs. Saints predictions for Week 17 of the NFL season originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles (13-2) are hosting the Saints (6-9) on Sunday afternoon at the Linc.

To the predictions:

Reuben Frank (12-3)

If I told you back in August the Eagles would need only to beat either the Saints or Giants at home the last two weeks of the season to lock up the No. 1 seed in the NFC, you would have signed up for that in a second. If you take a step back and look at the big picture, the Eagles are in terrific shape. They have the best record in the NFL. They haven’t lost a game when they’ve committed fewer than four turnovers. They’ll be very close to full strength when the playoffs come around. They’re the highest-scoring team in the NFL and they have the NFL’s No. 2 defense. And if they win their next three meaningful games – all at home - they’ll be in the Super Bowl. So maybe things seem to falling apart if you just focus on 3rd-and-30 and some uncharacteristic turnovers and Jalen Hurts’ sore throwing shoulder, but the Eagles are still more likely than any other team to win the Super Bowl, according to the 538. So don’t panic, don’t worry, don’t jump ship. Gardner Minshew will be fine Sunday, and the Eagles will do enough to win somewhat comfortably and lock up No. 1 seed for the fifth time in the last 21 years.

Eagles 27, Saints 20

Dave Zangaro (12-3)

The Eagles should be able to win on Sunday even with Gardner Minshew at quarterback. And that’s not a knock on the six-win Saints because they’ve been pretty good defensively all season. They haven’t given up more than 20 points in a game since Nov. 7. They have some really good individual pieces on that side of the ball with Cam Jordan, Demario Davis, etc. But the Eagles still have a clear advantage in a few key areas. Their receivers should be able to beat these corners in 1-on-1s, even with the recent emergence of young corner Alontae Taylor. The Saints boasted the NFL’s top rushing defense last year until the Eagles ran all over them. If Hurts doesn’t play and without Lane Johnson, it’s hard to imagine the Eagles duplicating that performance. But they should have a balanced approach to put up more than 20 in this game.

As for the Saints’ offense, there aren’t many players who should keep Jonathan Gannon up late at night. Andy Dalton has been functional and players like Alvin Kamara, Chris Olave and Taysom Hill will make some plays. But it’s hard to imagine that will be enough. And I expect the Eagles’ pass rush, specifically their interior rushers, to feast all game. The Eagles win their franchise-record 14th game and snatch the top seed in the NFC.

Eagles 27, Saints 17

Barrett Brooks (12-3)

Jalen Hurts will likely not play this week against the Saints. With that being said, I do have complete confidence with Gardner Minshew. Minshew will put together another good game and be a little more comfortable in the offense. The Birds must go into the game with a good run game. Miles Sanders will split a couple of the starting reps with the backups because of a sore knee. The probable starter at the RT position will be Jack Driscoll. I believe Driscoll will do a good job as the plug-in starter, but OC Shane Steichen will have to cater the offense around giving extra help to the right side of the line.

Defensively, DC Jonathan Gannon will have to stop the the Saints’ run game. Alvin Kamara is very talented and when add Taysom Hill in their Wildcat package, they can stress the defense. It will be up to the defense to get penetration and tackle the run on their way to the QB on passing downs. Andy Dalton is a good veteran QB that really doesn't have weapons on the outside to beat the talented Eagles secondary.

Eagles 26, Saints 12

Mike Mulhern (13-2)

There’s nothing like another jolt of Gardner Minshew Mania to help nurse that New Year’s Day hangover. With Jalen Hurts doubtful to play on Sunday, the Eagles will once again turn to their backup quarterback as they look to lock up the No. 1 seed in the NFC. While Minshew may look like someone who stumbled out of a mummer’s clubhouse on Two Street, he certainly played the part of quality starter against the Cowboys last week, getting the Eagles within 19 yards of a win. I expect another big game from the free agent-to-be against the Saints. Heck, he might even be auditioning to be their starter for next season.

New Orleans bet big on themselves this year, sending a 2023 first round pick and a 2024 second round pick to the Eagles as part of their move to acquire an additional first rounder in 2022. That has hardly paid off, thanks in large part to lackluster quarterback play from Jameis Winston and now Andy Dalton. The No. 1 seed and a top-10 pick? Not a bad way to ring in 2023.

Eagles, 27, Saints 16

Adam Hermann (14-1)

Another week of Jalen Hurts on the sideline means another week of the Eagles not playing up to their full, league-dominating potential.

Last week they lost to a very good Dallas team because of Hurts' injury. This week they needn't be as worried.

The Saints enter Sunday's Week 17 showdown 20th in overall DVOA, with a higher skew on the defensive side of the ball (13th) and a lower skew on the offensive side of the ball (22nd). Five of their nine losses have been one-score games, but five of their six losses have also been one-score games. New Orleans is a tremendously average football team, the answer to what happens when a roster with a dearth of difference-making talent meets a miserable division.

New Orleans is somehow rolling out Andy Dalton at quarterback, and while he certainly hasn't been bad — 66.2% completion and 7.5 yards/attempt — he hasn't been great, either. He has 17 touchdown passes in 12 starts to go along with eight interceptions. He's just kind of... there. And his only true passing threat is Chris Olave, who is quietly going to put up 1,000 yards in his rookie season. Other than Olave and the occasional screen or dump-off to Alvin Kamara, the Saints' passing game is nothing concerning - and the running game ranks Bottom-12 in yards per attempt and touchdowns.

The Eagles should have no problem holding New Orleans under 20 points.

And then the focus shifts to the Eagles' offense with Gardner Minshew at the helm for another week. He finished with a solid stat line and executed well enough last week, but anyone who actually watched the game and didn't just trawl the stat sheet knows that the Birds' offense was much more strained vs. Dallas than it's been all season long. With Hurts, the offense hummed and sang; with Minshew it was more of a trudge.

But I think with a week under his belt and a less-talented (albeit not bad) defense lining up across from him Minshew will be able to command this offense to a handful of touchdowns. He needs to settle his jittery pocket presence, and he needs to funnel more targets to the Eagles' three elite pass-catching options in A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert. Now is not the time to make Quez Watkins your new best friend.

I expect the Birds to keep things relatively simple, drill the basics, and beat the Saints without too much of a struggle.

Eagles 28, Saints 17

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