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.
A quick breakdown of the Philadelphia-New Orleans divisional playoff game.
The Eagles will win if ...
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.
The 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.
New Orleans Saints
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.
MORE NFL HEADLINES
- Cutler: 'Crossed my mind' Bears tenure over
- Sources: Bears 'confused' by coach's discipline
- Cowboys' Murray: Decision to play is mine
- 49ers' Harbaugh: 'Only talk about job I have'
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
• Colts-Ravens (Sat., 4:30 ET)
• Eagles-Saints (Sat., 8 ET)
• Seahawks-Bears (Sun., 1 ET)
• Patriots-Chargers (Sun., 4:30 ET)