Much has changed over the past 50 days since the Saints blasted the Philadelphia Eagles 48-7 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in November.
The biggest difference in the Eagles then and the Eagles now?
Just ask Saints center Max Unger.
"They are hot, they are on a roll," Unger said. "When you play teams that get hot late in the season and carry that momentum into the playoffs, especially with what they were able to do last year as the defending world champions, they know what they are doing. They are peaking at the right time."
It'll be up to the Saints (13-3) to try to cool off the Eagles (10-7) on Sunday when they play in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs in the Dome. Kickoff is set for 3:40 p.m.
The last time the Philadelphia Eagles played the New Orleans Saints in Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the outcome was historic -- the worst loss by …
The Eagles come in having won six of their past seven games since that 41-point rout in November. Their postseason hopes seemed doomed that day as they fell to 4-6. Then they won two of their next three.
With three weeks left in the season and facing a tough schedule and needing help from other teams, the Eagles turned on the switch. They beat the Los Angeles Rams on the road, beat the Houston Texans at home, then traveled to beat the Washington Redskins to squeeze into the playoffs. They followed that up Sunday by going on road and grinding out a win over the No. 3 seed Chicago Bears.
"Just the way this team has come together at the end of the season, to be counted out with three games to go ... This team believes in everything we're doing," said Eagles coach Doug Pederson in Monday's news conference. "And you saw it (Sunday). We're different. It's a different mindset. It's a different football team. We're a different group than when we played New Orleans the first time. We'll learn from it and obviously have been better since."
Saints coach Sean Payton has seen the difference. And it's not just that Nick Foles has taken over at quarterback for the Eagles in place of the injured Carson Wentz. Payton cited how well the Eagles are playing in the red zone on offense and defense. He also noted the number of different offensive playmakers they have, along with a defense that puts plenty of pressure on the quarterback.
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"I think they are a different team than we faced earlier in the year," Payton said. "A different quarterback is playing, and I think there is a confidence that you see. The win on the road was a big one for them. You go through the games and the win streak. They have kind of been in a playoff role, needing to win to get in so it's impressive."
But Payton says his team is also different now than it was then.
"Hopefully we are further down the road and more experienced relative to the games we've played since then," Payton said.
"I think we are looking forward to having a good week of practice, studying the film and playing close attention to all the things that have taken place between that last game and now. That's the great thing about this tournament. You get to play and advance and certainly understand the sense of urgency."
The New Orleans Saints' path to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta isn't long or complicated.
The Saints are 3-3 in the playoffs under Sean Payton in rematches from the regular season. But Payton is undefeated (5-0) in playoff games in the Dome.
They'll try to make it 6-0 on Sunday. But to do so, they'll have to beat a team that will look different than the one they saw the last time.
"We know that they have playmakers on this team, and they are the defending Super Bowl champs," linebacker A.J. Klein said. "They have been in this situation before so they know how to win. We are not expecting them to be the same team because they are not. They are playing really good football right now and we will be prepared to get their best shot and obviously we will give them ours."