I've been worrying about tonight's Eagles/Saints game all week. I've put off writing my preview of the game because ever since I heard about Lito Sheppard's injury I just didn't know what to think. Then, as I was sitting on the couch watching Inside the NFL I realized a few things. First of all, no team is hotter in the NFL than the Eagles. They've won 6 in a row. You don't get more momentum than that. The Saints have been sitting around getting rusty for two weeks. Second, the Eagles have run the ball all over every team they've faced in the past month and a half. Running equals winning in the playoffs. Third, the Eagles defense has shown up when needed in every one of those six games. Granted, Lito Sheppard was a big part of that, but he wasn't the only part. Finally, look at both teams' rosters, the best offensive player in this game is Brian Westbrook, the best defensive player, Brian Dawkins. I'm thinking advantage Eagles.
Drew Brees is a great quarterback (or at least he has been for the past two seasons), Deuce McAllister is a tough running back, Reggie Bush is a superstar in the making, the Saints have size and speed at the WR position. Drew Brees is also playing in his second playoff game, he lost his first. Deuce McAllister, Reggie Bush and those speedy receivers are playing in their first. The Eagles are led by a fiery veteran QB who's playing in an offense that was made for him. The Eagles have explosive speed on the outside and a running back who can win a game all by himself, not to mention a huge offensive line that's made mince meat out of every d-line they've faced in the past month and a half. On defense, the Eagles have an ex-Saint at defensive end who's looking to put a hurting on his old team, a linebacker who can't wait to chop some wood and an All Pro safety lurking in the secondary sizing up Reggie Bush for a hit that'll make him wish he stayed at USC for his senior year.
New Orleans has played over its head all year. Everyone is calling them a Cinderella team, and they are. They're an illusion. They've got the whiz-kid coach, the flooded city, the Heisman Trophy-winner. Everyone's picking them, but teams that back into the playoffs, then sit around and think about it for an extra week aren't the teams that wind up on top. Much like the Jets, when the Saints lose this game everyone's going to be talking about what a great year it was for New Orleans. They aren't hungry, they're full. They're playing with the house's money, and it's time for the Eagles to call in the marker. My prediction: Eagles 38, Saints 31.