Not too long ago this was old hat for the Eagles. The regular season little more than a prelude to the playoffs. 16 games to avoid major injuries so they could suit up for the only games that really matter. While the road here this year was much different than the one taken from 2000-2004, here they are again. It's playoff time, and the first victim this year is the New York Giants.
The Eagles are ready, I have no doubt about that. Brian Dawkins is chewing nails and bench pressing Buicks, trying to contain his rage for roughly 37 more hours until he can unleash it on the G-Men. Brian Westbrook is stretching out his legs, getting them ready to run all over the soft New York defense. Trotter is chopping wood. Reggie Brown is running routes on his front lawn in his pajamas. Andy Reid is studying film, Jim Johnson is dreaming about blitzes, Marty Mornhinweg is drawing up trick plays. The Eagles will be ready.
As for the Giants? Tiki is getting his clips ready for his audition with Regis and Kelly. Shockey is listening to hillbilly music somewhere, pouting about not getting the ball enough. Strahan is contemplating getting that gap in his teeth fixed and Eli is sucking his thumb in the corner somewhere muttering to himself, "Why didn't my daddy let me play in San Diego?"
The Philadelphia Daily News went hunting for cowards in the Eagles' locker room today, asking the players and coaches if this season would be a success if they somehow lost on Sunday. Linebacker Shawn Barber summed it up perfectly, "Not an option," Barber said, when asked what he'd think if the Birds lost. "Failure is not an option in this dojo." Dirk Diggler would be proud.
Keys to the game: on Defense
1. Stop Tiki. He ran wild against the pitiful Redskins last week, and he might just think he can replicate that effort against the Birds. The Eagles need to stay disciplined, Tiki always likes to cut back against the Eagles and bounce his runs to the outside. The front seven needs to keep in its lanes and get penetration. Just like they did the last time the teams met.
2. Hit Eli. This Manning is soft. Hit him early, hit him often and he'll get that deer-in-the-headlights look all Giants fans are all too familiar with.
3. Stay out of Weapon X's way: Brian Dawkins was genetically engineered for games like this. He's looking to punish the Giants. If you're an Eagle, know where he is so he doesn't hurt you in the process of ripping Jeremy Shockey in half. (Especially you, Sean Considine).
Keys to the game: on Offense
1. Get Westbrook the ball. Early and often. Brian Westbrook touched the ball 2 times last week. He's well-rested, and should have an extra spring in his step. Every time he touches the ball he's one broken tackle away from a touchdown. Run him left, run him right, run him up the middle, split him out and let him run patterns, throw him screens. Get the whole Giant defense concerned with where he is, then...
2. Throw the ball deep. Once you've established the run, it's time for Jeff Garcia to shine. The Giants don't have a corner that can cover Stallworth or Brown one on one. Play action will suck up the safeties and Garcia can punish the Giants deep.
3. Play smart. The only chance the Giants have in this game is if the Eagles make stupid mistakes. Don't take unnecessary risks. 4th and 2 on the 5 yard line in the first quarter, kick the field goal. Andy Reid has coached nearly flawless football over the past five weeks. Keep that streak going.
Unless something goes horribly wrong, the Eagles will win this game. My prediction: Eagles 38, Giants 17. Not to mention the fact that the Eagles are undefeated since I started shaving my head.
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