PHILADELPHIA -- Everybody might be talking about the weather, but even Chip Kelly and his sports-science crew can’t do anything about it.
The Eagles will host the New Orleans Saints on Saturday night with temperatures projected to be in the 20s and a wind chill in the teens. That is cold, whether you’re used to playing in the Superdome or at Lincoln Financial Field.
“You prepare for their best,” Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin said. “The same challenges they face with the weather, we’re facing. It will be the same for (the Saints) and us.”
There have been teams over the years that seemed to revel in their cold-weather hometowns and turn it into an advantage. The Eagles have not accomplished that, their winter-wonderland snow game against the Detroit Lions notwithstanding.
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles has a better record than the Saints’ Drew Brees in games played at or below 32 degrees. But 1-0, Foles’ record, isn’t much of a sample size. Neither, for that matter, is Brees’ 2-3 record.
All the talk about the Saints’ struggles this season on the road, especially in inclement weather, seems to miss the point that those games were against some pretty good teams. New Orleans lost to the Patriots in Foxborough, Mass., to the Panthers in Charlotte, and to the Seahawks in Seattle. They lost to the Jets in the rain and to the Rams in the Edward Jones Dome.
“We’ve all played in that kind of weather before,” Brees said. “Not on a consistent basis, but you kind of make preparations. You prepare as well as you can, at least mentally. Once you’re there, it’s football. It’s about execution.”
Brees no doubt prefers that climate-controlled Superdome, but then, so would Foles. They grew up in the same city -- Austin, Texas -- and went to the same high school. Foles played his college football in Arizona. His experience in bad weather is strictly limited, and not especially encouraging.
The Eagles won that snowy game against the Lions. Foles was 11-for-22 for179 yards. The story of that game was the way LeSean McCoy and the Eagles’ running game exploded for 299 yards and four touchdowns.
“It’s definitely different throwing in hot weather, in humidity, inside,” Foles said. “It’s just a different feel. The ball has a little bit different grip. Sometimes balls that feel good when it’s humid are very slick in this weather, in this climate. You just try to play the game. You adjust to the climate when you’re playing in it.”
The Eagles’ biggest edge might not be Foles over Brees, but their offensive balance. McCoy’s NFL-best 1,607 rushing yards were 134 more yards than the entire Saints team’s total of 1,473. Last Sunday, in a virtual playoff game in Dallas, the running game resuscitated the offense when the Cowboys were able to shut down Foles and the passing game.
In the cold, when the gusting wind plays havoc with the trajectory of the thrown football, a great running game can make all the difference.
It’s no wonder McCoy said, “We’re made for the playoffs.”