|ESPN.com: NFL Playoffs 2004||[Print without images]|
|A closer look|
• X-factor: Terrell Owens is the X-factor because nobody knows what he'll be able to do. When he broke his leg, the injury was similar to the one Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers suffered in Week 1. At the seven week mark, the Panthers decided to place him on injured reserve for the rest of the season. Owens is hard at work in rehab. He wants to play and he wants to win. During the victory over the Falcons, Owens did a celebration dance that inspired the crowd. He's off the crutches. He may not be 100 percent. He may not be able to be a starter. But he has a chance to be a threat. The Owens factor has been huge for the Eagles. His presence as a threat allowed Donovan McNabb to become a 64 percent thrower. McNabb has carried over that confidence even without Owens in the lineup.
• X-and-O factor: Bill Belichick will have two weeks to prepare for the Eagles. That's a lot and it's significant. He beat the Eagles 31-10 last season. He knows how to beat the Eagles. Even though McNabb is improved, he won't have Owens for the entire game and may not have him at all. Belichick's mastery is taking one thing away from an offense. Against the Steelers, he took away the running game. Against the Eagles, he will try to take away the three- and five-step drops, which probably means more physical play from his cornerbacks.
• Rx factor (health): The Eagles will have two weeks to rush the return of Owens from a broken leg. The Patriots, meanwhile, have a decent chance of having defensive end Richard Seymour back on the field. Bet on Seymour more than Owens. Owens is coming off a broken leg. Seymour is coming off a knee injury that didn't require surgery. Both players are Pro Bowlers and both are significant. The advantage goes to the Patriots if they are able to get their best defensive player back on the field.
• Numbers cruncher: Even though it's a passing league, receivers probably won't be a big factor in this Super Bowl. Owens, at best, could be a role player coming off a broken leg. So who is the biggest receiving threat in the Super Bowl? There isn't one. David Givens is the most accomplished with a mere 56 catches for 874 yards and just three touchdowns. After Owens' 77 catches and Brian Westbrook' 73 receptions, Todd Pinkston is the next best threat for the Eagles with 36 receptions for 676 yards. Without a true big-play 70-catch receiver, there is no go-to guy. Expect the Super Bowl MVP to be a running back or a quarterback, not a receiver.
• The Eagles will win if: McNabb passes for 270 yards and Westbrook rushes for at least 75. That's going to be tough. The Patriots defense under Belichick is usually successful taking away one strength of an opponent's offense. It should take away some of aspect of the Eagles passing game and the Eagles aren't built to win on the ground. That's why the Patriots are favored to win by a touchdown.
• The Patriots will win if: Tom Brady runs an efficient offense, passing for 250 yards and throwing two or three touchdown passes. With the new emphasis on illegal contact, those type of numbers should be expected.
-- John Clayton
• Vote: Who will win?John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.