NFC East: audibles 14
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
The last meeting produced a 36-31 win for the Giants, but the score was misleading. The Giants made a couple of big mistakes to allow the Eagles back into the game. Everyone's waiting to see what type of effect the Plaxico Burress incident and his subsequent suspension will have on the team. But the Giants have been overcoming adversity for the better part of two seasons now. It will take more than Burress' absence to derail their playoff hopes.
Now if something happens to middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, then we need to revisit this issue. But I'd surprised if Pierce is suspended before the end of the season. If anything he'll be disciplined heading into next season. I think Eli Manning will feast on an Eagles defense that has been banged up. Asante Samuel may return from an injury, but I'm not sure how effective he'll be. Against the Redskins, Manning was brilliant through the air in the first half. In the second half, the Giants banged away in the running game.
Both Derrick Ward and Brandon Jacobs are among the league leaders in runs of 10 yards or more. And Clinton Portis has shown that you can run against the Eagles. It's by the grace of the NFC West that the Eagles have even a glimmer of hope in the wild-card race. But a signature win over the Giants would breathe life back into the Eagles, and it would also turn up the heat on the Giants in the aftermath of the Burress situation.
This is a huge game for both teams, but it's pretty much a must-win for the Redskins. Jason Campbell has come under a lot of fire -- some of it deserved, some not -- in the wake of a 23-7 loss to the Giants. It's not Campbell's fault that receivers can't get open downfield, but he's made his share of mistakes in the Redskins' recent slide.
Campbell takes too many sacks, and the Ravens will be after him from the opening snap. It's important for the Redskins to re-establish what was one of the best running games in the league in the first half of the season.
On defense, the Redskins will try to confuse rookie quarterback Joe Flacco. Washington needs to force at least two turnovers to win this game. Flacco's shown the ability to drive the ball in poor weather, but the Redskins will try to make him hold it for too long. London Fletcher has been banged up, but he put up a courageous effort last week against the Giants. The Redskins need Fletcher, Andre Carter and Jason Taylor to make plays in this game. They need to watch out for Flacco, who's not afraid to take off and run. I like the Redskins in this game -- but then, I usually do.
The Cowboys' offense has finally hit its stride again, but the Steelers have the No. 1 defense in the league. Left tackle Flozell Adams, who has trouble hearing the snap, will have to go against James Harrison. If Adams can get his hands on a player, he can control him. But Harrison has the speed to go around him.
It will be interesting to see how the Steelers play Terrell Owens. The Seahawks and 49ers have both tried to play him one-on-one at times -- and have been burned. Troy Polamalu is one of the best safeties in the game, but he can't cover Jason Witten. Tony Romo uses Witten as a comfort blanket. I could see the tight end having an eight- or nine-catch game.
Wade Phillips doesn't seem concerned about the fact that it could be 25 degrees and muddy at Heinz Field on Sunday. I don't think he's prepared this team mentally for what it might face. And that's a shame, because he coached in Buffalo, where the weather was awful at times. As usual, the Steelers were out practicing in the mud in preparation for Sunday. I think the conditions could be a huge advantage for the Steelers. This team has flourished in cold-weather games, going 15-5 in December over the past five seasons.
As most of you know, the Cowboys have been awful in December. But a win over the Steelers would give them a lot of momentum heading into the final three games. Oh, and I looked it up. Romo has been a much better fourth-quarter passer than Ben Roethlisberger. This one's going to be close, so that could come into play.