Which Foot Fits the Glass Slipper?
New Orleans vs. Philadelphia
Saturday, Jan. 13
Philadelphia Eagles (11-6) at New Orleans Saints (10-6), 8 p.m.
This should be a great game if only for the drama both teams endured on their way here. Such games seldom live up to expectations, but I have a feeling about this one.
The Philadelphia Eagles have won seven straight, including their 23-20 Wild Card win over the New York Giants last week. That seven straight after a losing 5 of 6 mid-season. Four of those losses came surprisingly when Donovan McNabb still helmed the team, and, more surprisingly, just one loss since Jeff Garcia assumed control (as "The Simpsons" writers would say: Assumed it with a vengeance!).
The New Orleans Saints pulled up short of a miracle season, losing 3 of 4 mid-season and then 2 of 3 to finish. Still, it was heavenly compared to last season's post-Katrina hell. And despite early-season success, the Saints finished a purgatorial 4-4 in the Superdome. Newcomers head coach Sean Payton, quarterback Drew Brees and wide receiver Marques Colston still have made this a cherishable season to remember, despite tonight's outcome.
That said, I can't even imagine the frenzy of the Superdome on this occasion. The Return to Eden .. I mean, the Superdome .. in Week 3 was mesmerizing, and the Saints absorbed that energy and routed Atlanta, 23-3. Tonight's emotion will surely rival that Monday Night.
But that was 15 weeks ago, and the Eagles are birds of a different feather. Running back Brian Westbrook is having a career year -- 1,217 yards rushing (5.1 avg), 699 receiving in the regular season, and he led Philly to the win last week. Of course, New Orleans buried Atlanta twice, and the Falcons have a pretty good running game. But the Falcons did not have a very good passing game, and that's where Garcia comes in. Garcia's success this season is well-documented, though he was adequately unspectacular last week. And that was against a Giants passing defense that was not highly rated, while New Orleans is No. 3 against the pass. Then again, the Giants are a division rival, and Garcia had his "worst" (90.9 rating) regular season game -- other than his midseason-first and meaningless last of the season -- against the Giants.
Harder than scoring on New Orleans might be stopping them. The Saints have the fifth best scoring offense in the league. Brees has had a phenomenal year -- tops in yards, second in rating (for quarterbacks who played a full season), third in passing touchdowns. He's made it look easy with a rookie running back leading the team in receptions and a seventh-round rookie receiver leading in receiving yards.
Speaking of that rookie running back, Reggie Bush may not have been this team's savior, but paired with Deuce McAllister and also receiving and occasionally returning punts, he's done his job. The Eagles will have their hands full with the Deuce running first with Bush changing up. On the other side of Colston is Joe Horn, quietly and consistently one of the best No. 2 receivers maybe since John Stallworth, but he's listed as "questionable" with a groin injury.
And that's one heck of an offensive line, mind you. You may even learn a coupe of their names one day.
The one thing that bothers me is the way the Saints gave away their last home game to Carolina. I never liked that "strategy."
One huge injury in this game: Philly cornerback Lito Sheppard, out with a dislocated elbow.
Cinderella, thy name is "New Orleans."
Prediction: Saints, 30-17.
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Who will win Philadelphia @ New Orleans?
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New Orleans Saints