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NFC: Giants Begin Title Defense vs. Old Rival


The Eagles' offense goes through Brian Westbrook will profile each playoff game in this NFL postseason, with a special eye on Jets angles in each of the matchups. Today: the NFC Divisional Round Game early Sunday afternoon:

(6) PHILADELPHIA (10-6-1) at (1) NEW YORK GIANTS (12-4), 1 p.m., FOX


Some suggest the Giants have entered the playoffs not hitting on all cylinders.

Yeah, kind of like last year.

In 2007 the Giants lost two of their last three, three of their last six, then proceeded to win three road games and Super Bowl XLII in Arizona by 17-14 over the previously undefeated Patriots.

This is the G-men's time of year. True, they've lost three of four. But they won the game that counted, coming from behind to cage Carolina, 34-28 in overtime, and take the NFC's top seed away from the Panthers. Now instead of three road games, they've got two home games to see if they can perform their Super magic again, this time in Tampa, Fla.

But trouble could be brewing because the Eagles are giving a pretty good impersonation of last year's Big Blue this time around. After stumbling to a 5-5-1 record, they won four of their last five, then went into Minnesota and vaulted the Vikings, 26-14, in last weekend's NFC Wild Card Round.

"I think the Eagles are the hottest team in the NFL right now," said DE Justin Tuck, fighting through a lower leg injury the past few weeks. "They may be the sixth seed, but they sure aren't playing like it."

But Eli Manning was looking forward to an up-tempo week of practice this week to get him and his teammates ready to do battle with their longtime NFC East rivals.

"We need a good week of practice and preparation because it's about execution at this time of year," Manning said, "especially against a team we face twice a year in games that always seem to come down to the fourth quarter."

And the Birds have won 10 out of the teams' 17 meetings from the 2001 season to present, including the not-as-close-as-it-sounds 20-14 win at the Meadowlands in Week 14.

Statistical Picture

Brandon Jacobs also seems rejuvenated despite season-long left knee problems. The Giants are happy to hear that, since his 1,089 yards (at 5.0 yards a pop) and 15 TDs combined with Derrick Ward's 1,025 yards (5.6 per carry) led the Giants to their first top-ranked rushing offense since 1993.

Manning had an efficient '08 with 21 TD passes to 10 INTs. Another comparison: In last year's 16 regular-season games, Eli's offense committed 33 turnovers. In the last 20 games ('07 playoffs, '08 RS), the offense had only 14 giveaways.

Tuck's team-leading 12 sacks leads a pressuring defense that can make life in the pocket uncomfortable for Donovan McNabb.

Giants placekicker John Carney and punter Jeff Feagles are the NFC's Pro Bowl kickers.

But Philly's offense is more than McNabb, Philly's longtime QB who bounced back from his second-half benching by coach Andy Reid at Baltimore in Week 12 to lead the current five-wins-in-six-games streak.

Brian Westbrook (936 yards rushing, 402 receiving) continues to be a multiple threat, as evidenced by his 71-yard TD catch-and-run from McNabb at Minnesota. And second-round rookie DeSean Jackson has impressed with his 62 catches for 912 yards and a punt-return TD.

To harass Manning, the Eagles will apply blitz pressure with DE Darren Howard (10 sacks), LB Trent Cole (9) and S Brian Dawkins, which will help Asante Samuel ballhawk — he came down from the Patriots to man the corner and has contributed four interceptions and a TD return in the regular season, plus last week's 44-yard INT-return TD vs. the Vikes.

The Giants finished the regular-season with top-10 rankings in seven key NFL yardage/point categories: total offense (7th), rush offense (1st), scoring offense (tied for 3rd), total defense (5th), rush defense (9th), pass defense (8th) and scoring defense (5th).

Philadelphia also finished with seven top-10 rankings: total offense (9th), pass offense (6th), scoring offense (6th), total defense (3rd), rush defense (4th), pass defense (3rd) and scoring defense (4th).

In turnover margin, the Giants are plus-9 overall and plus-5 at home. The Eagles are plus-3 overall and minus-5 on the road.

Playoff Histories

The Giants have won two of three previous postseason meetings with the Eagles. They won at Philadelphia, 27-21, in the 1981 NFC Wild Card Round and 20-10 at the Meadowlands in the 2000 Divisional Round. The Eagles prevailed at home in the 2006 Wild Card Round, 23-20.

The Giants' all-time postseason record is 20-23, 16-10 since the 1970 merger. The records include 14 NFL championship game appearances from 1933-63, victories in Super Bowls XXI, XV and XLII and an appearance in SBXXXV. Their four consecutive victories, all coming last season and capped by their 17-14 triumph over the Patriots, are the league's longest current playoff win streak.

Philadelphia is 18-17 all-time in the postseason, including 3-1 in four NFL title games from 1947-60 and 0-2 in their two Super Bowl appearances, after the 1980 and 2004 seasons.

Jet Fuel

The Giants have a healthy Green & White alumni association on its roster. Kareem McKenzie (2001-04) is their starting right tackle. Derrick Ward, signed off the Jets' practice squad in 2004, rushed for 1,025 yards behind and alongside Brandon Jacobs. Danny Ware, signed off the Jets P-squad in 2007, is listed as their fourth RB and plays on special teams.

Then there are WR Sinorice Moss, kid brother of WR Santana Moss (2001-04), and LB Zak DeOssie, son of LB Dave DeOssie (1993).

On the coaching staff, Peter Giunta (1995-96) is in charge of the Giants' secondary/corners, David Merritt (2001-03) handles secondary/safeties, and Markus Paul (2005-06) is the assistant strength coach. And defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has interviewed for the Jets' head-coaching position.

The Eagles don't have quite as many Green & White connections. Starting FB Dan Klecko is the son of Jets D-line great Joe Klecko. And Otis Smith, the Birds' first-year assistant secondary coach, was the Jets' starting RCB in 1995 and 1997-99.

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