Three things each team needs to do to win

It can't get any easier than this. Here are the three things each team needs to do to win, writes John Clayton.

Updated: January 12, 2007, 3:18 PM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

A quick breakdown of the Philadelphia-New Orleans divisional playoff game.

EaglesThe Eagles will win if ...

Running Back
Philadelphia Eagles

Profile
2006 SEASON STATISTICS
Rush Yds TD Rec Yds TD
240 1217 7 77 699 4
1. Brian Westbrook reaches the 100-yard rushing mark. Westbrook ran for 141 yards on 20 carries in the Eagles' 23-20 win over the Giants. Westbrook makes the Eagles a more balanced offense, which is important for quarterback Jeff Garcia. Against the Giants, the Eagles ran 31 times and passed 31 times. Garcia doesn't have a strong arm, but he is very accurate. Given the chance to have a big-time running threat, Garcia can work some play-action passes to get the ball downfield and prevent the Saints' cornerbacks from squatting on routes. In the Eagles' 27-24 loss to the Saints in New Orleans earlier this season, Donovan McNabb was the quarterback and the Eagles called pass plays more than 60 percent of the time. Back then, the Eagles couldn't hold a 24-17 lead with 13 minutes left because they couldn't use the rushing game to run out the clock.

2. They borrow a page from the Seahawks and find ways to cover for the absences of key cornerbacks. The Seahawks were down three corners against the Cowboys but found a way to limit Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to 189 passing yards. Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard dislocated an elbow on Sunday, so the Eagles' pass defense will be thin. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson won't be able to use too many man coverages to free up an extra blitzer to pressure quarterback Drew Brees. Brees burned the Eagles, going 27 of 37 for 275 yards and three touchdowns in their earlier meeting. Being fresh and probably having Joe Horn available, Brees figures to throw for 250 yards and will look to find matchups he can exploit with Sheppard out.

3. Two ex-Saints have big games. Former Saints receiver Donte' Stallworth is the team's best deep threat. Defensive end Darren Howard, another former Saint, offers pass-rush and great run-stopping ability. Stallworth was inactive in the first meeting against the Saints, and Howard played a decent game with three tackles. This is the playoffs and everything is at stake. Stallworth is playing for a contract extension with the Eagles because he's a free agent at the end of the season. Howard would also like to show up the team that didn't re-sign him.

SaintsThe Saints will win if ...

1. Drew Brees continues his magical season. Brees has been amazing. Though he lost the MVP honors to former San Diego teammate LaDainian Tomlinson, he led the NFL with 4,418 passing yards and had 34.6 pass attempts a game. That's amazing for a quarterback who is coming off a completely torn labrum. Brees is looking for his first playoff victory, so he will be under a lot of pressure, but he thrives in that type of environment. He's won close games and he's won blowouts, and that last-second come-from-behind victory over the Eagles earlier in the season helped to put the Saints on the map.

Running Back
New Orleans Saints

Profile
2006 SEASON STATISTICS
Rush Yds TD Rec Yds TD
244 1057 10 30 198 0
2. They get a 100-yard rushing game from Deuce McAllister. McAllister is the team's best inside runner and he can open things up for the rest of the offense against the Eagles. The Eagles were able to beat the Giants despite Tiki Barber's 137-yard day because Eli Manning couldn't hold up his end. After his 29-yard play-action touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress on the first possession, Manning couldn't get the ball downfield much on play-action. If McAllister wears down the middle of the Eagles' defense, Brees can work play-action to Horn and Marques Colston. Plus, he can drive the Eagles' defense crazy with Reggie Bush in favorable matchups in passing sets.

3. Former Eagles defensive tackle Hollis Thomas plays a career game as he did in the 27-24 victory over Philadelphia. Thomas is coming off a four-game suspension, but he had a great season. He had six tackles and a sack against the Eagles in that game. Thomas is a big body who plays the middle of the field in stopping the run. His presence alone could force more screen passes to the flanks. Thomas will have another point to prove in this game coming off the suspension and playing the team that traded him.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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