NFC Playoffs: Defending Champs, Two Teams With a Dream, One With a Tie
The New York Giants play host to the resurgent Philadelphia Eagles, and the Arizona Cardinals travel to face the Carolina Panthers in round two of the NFC playoffs.
Neither traveling team ended the regular season with a winning road record this year. Conversely, the host teams went 71-8-0 at home this year.
Interestingly, the Giants' lone home loss this season came at the hands of the visiting Eagles, in a 20-14 victory on Dec. 7.
This will be Philadelphia's second road trip of the playoffs—last week they knocked off the NFC North champion Minnesota Vikings 26-14, beneficiaries of two big time plays which allotted them their only touchdowns of the game.
Both teams will need their play makers to step up to the plate and deliver if they intend to move on in the post-season.
Philadelphia vs. New York, Giants Stadium
Philadelphia brings the legs of Brian Westbrook and David Akers into New York with the intention of knocking off the defending champion Giants. The Giants have had an extra week to rest and plan and should be up to the task of shutting the Eagles rushing game down.
A recharged Donovan McNabb will have to win this one with his arm. The Eagles third-ranked passing attack will look find holes in the Giants secondary, which has garnered 17 interceptions this year while limiting opposing teams to less than 200 yards per game.
Eli Manning leads a Giants offense that was only ranked ninth in the NFC in passing yards per game. Without Plaxico Burress, Manning has suffered, managing a paltry 165 yards per game in three of their last four contests.
However, the Giants averaged 157.4 yards per game this year, and could challenge the solid rushing defense of the Eagles.
If the Giants can't get the running game going, look for the Eagles to harass Manning all day, and the secondary to get at least one pick on the way to victory.
Final: Philadelphia 24, New York 17
Arizona Cardinals vs. Carolina Panthers, Bank of America Stadium
The high-flying Cardinals face a Panthers secondary that has given up an average of 211 yards per game this year and Kurt Warner is a man on a mission.
With receiver Larry Fitzgerald catching everything, expect Warner to air it out early and often.
Don't expect the Panthers to just roll over give up, though. The Panthers will be looking to challenge the Cardinals front four and keep their linebackers guessing all day. DeAngelo Williams will lead the charge and Jonathan Steward will power the ball in goal-line situations.
Additionally, Steve Smith is still a dangerous receiver who can beat you on a big play.
With over 100 yards per game in the contests he played this year, expect Jake Delhomme to look for him when he needs a big play for a score.
With both teams having sticky-handed receivers and running backs that can get it done, expect this to be a high-scoring game with a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.
Final score: Carolina 35, Arizona 30.
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