Daily News picks: Hard to go against rested Super Bowl champs

A relatively healthy Brian Westbrook is a must for Eagles.
A relatively healthy Brian Westbrook is a must for Eagles.
Posted: January 09, 2009

Les Bowen

In my mind, this game is more about the Giants than about the Eagles.

I think I have a decent idea of what the Eagles can do. Good defense, OK offense that could use a healthier Brian Westbrook, an offense that could do a better job of blocking for him most games. Capable, on the right day, of beating anybody, in an NFL that lacks a truly scary, dynasty-level team.

But if the NFL has anything close to a truly scary, dynasty-level team, that team would be the Giants. If the Giants that were on a 15-1 run before they last faced the Birds happen to show up Sunday, those Giants will win. The December Eli Manning, and the December Giants, who lost three of their last four? Not so much.

But it isn't December anymore, and the Giants had the bye week to get healthier. The Eagles' bumps and bruises are really starting to add up.

As interesting as things would get if the Eagles won this - I don't think I would pick them to lose to anyone else, in the NFC Championship or the Super Bowl, if they could win this game - I can't bring myself to say I think it's likely. GIANTS, 17-16

Ed Barkowitz

While the Eagles have a real shot here (sorry, Plax), the bye week the Giants had could be the difference. One example of the benefit: Brandon Jacobs got a full week to rest his injured knee while Brian Westbrook had to play on Minnesota's artificial turf.

There's a chart somewhere in this section that shows the No. 6 seed has played the No. 1 seed 11 times and lost 10. It's tough to get past that; almost as tough as it will be getting past the defending Super Bowl champs in their house. GIANTS, 24-17

Bill Conlin

There is no tougher game to win in sports than as a wild-card-round survivor, battered and bruised, going against the rested No. 1 seed, sitting at home with batteries recharged by a week of rest.

But there will be an X-factor at work for the Eagles in the Meadowlands. The Giants have not been quite the same team since deluxe wideout Plaxico Burress shot himself out of the postseason. That said, if the Eagles run for fewer than 100 yards, they will lose. GIANTS, 20-17, in OT

Paul Domowitch

For me, this one comes down to Brian Westbrook.

He has battled through knee and ankle injuries much of the season. He doesn't have the quickness or the explosion he had last year when he led the league in yards from scrimmage. His numbers are way, way down.

But just when you're ready to shovel dirt on him, he rises and comes riding to the rescue. Had 203 rushing and receiving yards in that 20-14 win over the Giants a month ago. Had that impressive 71-yard touchdown Sunday to help beat the Vikings.

If he can fight through the injuries and make some difference-making plays against the Giants' talented defense, the Eagles have a chance to win. If he can't, if he doesn't, this will be the end of the playoff road. GIANTS, 10-9

Sam Donnellon

The Giants are at home, have an extra week's rest, have Brandon Jacobs healthy again and proved in that Carolina game that when they put their minds to it, they are the NFC's best team.

Even without Plaxico Burress.

But the absence of Burress and the improved performance of the Eagles' defense make for another war between these teams. The rest, and homefield, will be the difference. GIANTS, 16-10

Marcus Hayes

This isn't a bedraggled, distracted, one-loss Giants team with virtually nothing to play for. That's what the Eagles faced last month, when they dominated time of possession and barely won.

This is much closer to the dominant team that was atop the power ratings after 11 games. Key players have been given a chance to heal - both defensive tackles, running back Brandon Jacobs and tight end Kevin Boss, in particular - all positions that can give the Eagles fits.

And they will. GIANTS, 31-20

Rich Hofmann

You can make a football argument for an Eagles victory. Just as in the December win at the Meadowlands, the Giants will be without uber-receiver Plaxico Burress, which means the Eagles will have an extra safety to play with on defense, to commit more to the run, to play hide-and-seek on the blitz with Giants quarterback Eli Manning. It is a significant fact.

The Eagles' problem will be physical. They have been playing pretty close to an elimination game a week since Thanksgiving, which has to take some toll. They played a very physical game on artificial turf Sunday at Minnesota, which just adds to the accumulated burden. The Giants are a tough, tough team under normal circumstances - but they are rested and the Eagles are not and, well ... GIANTS, 20-13

John Smallwood

These teams split the season series, with each winning in convincing fashion in the other's stadium. Granted, the Giants were dealing with the Plaxico Burress fiasco leading into the second game with the Eagles, then running back Brandon Jacobs went down during it.

Jacobs is back, which should help the running game, but Burress is done for the season and that has a dramatic effect on the passing game. Without the big-play ability of Burress to worry about, the Eagles can concentrate more on the run, and this defense is tough for a one-dimensional team to handle.

Donovan McNabb is playing some of his best football in years, and as Brian Westbrook showed Sunday at Minnesota, it takes only one play for him to change a game. A couple of plays will be the difference. EAGLES, 17-13.

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