Eagles Offense vs. Saints D: Stoppable Force Meets Moveable Object

Eagles Offense vs. Saints D: Stoppable Force Meets Moveable Object

At 17.1 points per game, Philadelphia features the NFL's 28th ranked scoring offense in the NFL, while they have also given the ball away 17 times, tied for the fourth-most. Their inability to protect the football and convert opportunities into points is the biggest reasons why the Eagles are standing at 3-4 today.

Tonight the Birds will be faced with their best opportunity to break that trend when they face off against the league's worst defense in New Orleans.

How bad is the Saints' defense? Two clubs have surrendered more points than New Orleans this year -- Tennessee and Buffalo -- but none can even come close in yards allowed. The Saints are dead last at 474.7 yards per game, with the next closest being the Bills at 417.9. That's a difference of 56.8 YPG, a gap that is larger than the one separating Buffalo from the next 10 defenses.

New Orleans is not much better in one phase than another, either. They've allowed the most rushing yards per game this season (170.1), though just barely. The Bills are right there with them (169.5), and are probably actually a worse unit based on a per carry average and touchdowns. Either way, that's nearly 30 yards more on the ground than the 30th ranked run defense.

Yet amazingly, the Saints' pass defense might be an even bigger issue. After an idle Sunday, New Orleans dropped to 31st in YPG (304.6), and they are last place in a slew of other categories. 9.1 yards per attempts is a full tick above the 29th-ranked pass D, and not surprisingly, opposing quarterbacks are most efficient versus the Saints with a passer rating of 110.6.

One lesson for Eagles fans: it just goes to show a defensive coordinator is only as good as the talent he has to work with. Back in January, the city was clamoring for Steve Spagnuolo, who had been fired from his head coaching job in St. Louis. He wound up in New Orleans, which seemed like a great gig at the time, but the roster is lacking the parts to succeed on that side of the football.

Whether the Birds are able to take advantage is another story. The offensive line is down to two starters from last season's group -- Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans -- and LeSean McCoy is averaging 2.6 yards per carry over the last three games behind the patchwork unit.

While that disappointing trend figures to break on Monday, the Eagles will likely need to put points on the board to keep up with Drew Brees, and that means an improved effort from Michael Vick, too. Vick has done some things well in recent weeks. He's completed over 60% of his passes in four consecutive games, and thrown six touchdowns to just two interceptions. However, he's also been inconsistent, and the offense simply hasn't scored enough.

Even if Vick does snap out of his funk tonight, and tosses his best game of the season, what will it mean? Picking apart the Saints' miserable defense will hardly restore confidence in the offense.

On second thought, perhaps the real question is what will it mean if Vick can't move his troops up and down the field and into the end zone?

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

OKLAHOMA CITY -- James Harden scored 21 points, and the Houston Rockets overcame Russell Westbrook's seventh consecutive triple-double to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99 on Friday night.

Harden also had 12 assists and nine rebounds to help the Rockets win their fifth straight. Houston withstood Harden's 6-for-23 shooting effort.

Westbrook finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He has the longest triple-double streak since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989. The most in a row is nine by Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain in March 1968.

It was Westbrook's 12th triple-double this season and the 49th of his career. He is the NBA's active leader in the category and ranks sixth all-time.

The Thunder had won the previous six games during Westbrook's triple-double binge (see full story).

James moves into 9th on scoring list as Cavs top Heat
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 27 points to move into ninth place on the NBA scoring list, and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Miami Heat 114-84 on Friday night.

James passed Elvin Hayes on a driving layup with 6:58 remaining and has 27,315 career points. The four-time MVP was removed about a minute later and received a loud ovation from the Cleveland crowd.

Kevin Love, a game-time decision because of back spasms, scored a team-high 28 points and had 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers. He missed the morning shootaround but was in the lineup after warming up on the court about an hour before tip-off.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points for the Cavs, who have won three straight after losing three in a row.

Derrick Williams scored 17 points to lead the short-handed Heat, who have lost four straight (see full story). 

Schroder has career-high 33, Hawks rally past Bucks
MILWAUKEE -- Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 33 points and the Atlanta Hawks rallied from 20 down in the second half to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-110 on Friday night.

Paul Millsap had 23 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 18.

The Hawks, who ended a seven-game losing streak Wednesday with a win over Miami, trailed by 20 at halftime. A 40-point third quarter put them back in the game.

Jabari Parker scored 27 for Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo, in foul trouble throughout the game, had 14.

Atlanta pulled ahead 105-103 on Kyle Korver's jumper with 3:15 remaining, giving the Hawks their first lead since early in the game (see full story). 

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

DETROIT -- Brandon Dubinsky scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period and the surging Columbus Blue Jackets won their fifth straight game, 4-1 over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.

Lukas Sedlak got his first NHL goal for the Blue Jackets, who have earned at least a point in 12 of their last 13 games. Cam Atkinson contributed a short-handed goal in the first period for Columbus.

Dylan Larkin's power-play goal in the second was the only scoring of the night for the Red Wings. Sergei Bobrovsky had 32 saves for the Blue Jackets.

Sam Gagner scored into an empty net with 13.9 seconds remaining (see full story). 

Staal scores in 6th round of SO to lift Wild over Oilers
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Eric Staal scored in the sixth round of a shootout and the Minnesota Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Friday night.

Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker scored in regulation for Minnesota, which has won three straight.

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves. He entered with a league-best .946 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average.

Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had goals for the Oilers, whose four-game losing streak began with a 2-1 home overtime loss to the Wild last Sunday.

Staal scored on a backhand deke before Nugent-Hopkins fired wide in the sixth round (see full story). 

Raanta, Rangers beat Blackhawks, 1-0, in overtime
CHICAGO -- Nick Holden scored 55 seconds into overtime, Antti Raanta made 26 saves against his former team and the New York Rangers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 1-0 on Friday night.

Derek Stepan passed from the boards to a streaking Holden in the middle of the ice, and he beat Scott Darling on the stick side for his fourth goal of the season.

Darling was going for his second straight shutout while subbing for injured starter Corey Crawford but had to settle for another solid performance.

Raanta, who made his NHL debut with Chicago in 2013 and played for the Blackhawks for two seasons before he was traded to New York, improved to 15-0-3 in 20 career appearances at the United Center.

The 27-year-old Raanta had 17 saves in Thursday's 2-1 victory at Winnipeg, and coach Alain Vigneault opted to give him a second straight start over Henrik Lundqvist because of his recent play and his success in Chicago (see full story).

Oshie, Johansson, Grubauer lift Caps over Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- T.J. Oshie and Marcus Johansson each scored a goal, Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves and the Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 on Friday night for their third straight win.

Jakub Vrana and John Carlson also scored, helping Washington beat Buffalo for the third time in 15 days.

Kyle Okposo scored and Robin Lehner made 25 saves for Buffalo. The Sabres have lost three of their last four.

Oshie gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead 6:43 into the second period when he lifted a shot from the right edge of the crease past Lehner. Jay Beagle drew two defenders into the corner and sent the puck back to a wide open Oshie for his ninth goal of the season (see full story).