Sunday playoff game scouts

After a shocking upset on Saturday, we preview the series history, keys to the game and fast facts for Sunday's divisional-round playoff games.

Philadelphia Eagles (10-6-1) at New York Giants (12-4)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 1/11/09
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: FOX (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver)


152nd meeting, including three playoff encounters. The Giants hold a 79-67-2 regular-season edge and a 2-1 lead in post-season games. They last met in the post-season in January of 2006, when the Eagles took a 23-20 victory on a David Akers field goal as time expired.


Eagles coach Andy Reid has done a good job in recent weeks of continuing to get consistent touches for RB Brian Westbrook. That has taken the pressure off QB Donovan McNabb, who lacks deep vertical threats but is very good throwing into tight quarters against man coverage. Whether it's on the ground or as a receiver, Westbrook needs to get around 25 touches to move the chains and keep the defense rested. He had a career-high 33 carries in the last meeting, which helped wear the Giants defense down. McNabb was sacked just 23 times during the regular season, but the offensive line will be overmatched by the Giants' pass rush on obvious passing downs.

Giants RB Brandon Jacobs has had two weeks to rest his sore knee, and he'll lead the power running game. Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw combined for 217 rushing yards in the Giants' 36-31 win in Week 10, but had just 100 in the Week 14 rematch. The Eagles are somewhat undersized up front, but did finish fourth against the run in the regular season. Jacobs is a load to bring down, and the difference could be whether the Giants' athletic offensive line is able to get out and clear him into the second level. And QB Eli Manning would certainly benefit working against the Eagles' strong secondary if he has a sellable play-action.


Eagles CB Asante Samuel has six career postseason interceptions, returning an NFL-record four for touchdowns.

Reid joined Marv Levy and George Seifert as the only coaches to reach seven Divisional Playoffs in nine seasons.

San Diego Chargers (9-8) at Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:45 ET
GAMEDATE: 1/11/09
TV: CBS (Jim Nantz, Phil Simms)


29th meeting, 3rd in the playoffs. The Steelers lead the regular-season series 20-6, but they are 0-2 in the playoffs. Oddly, both playoff losses came in Pittsburgh, where the Chargers are 0-13 in the regular season. The Chargers beat them in the AFC championship game after the 1994 season and in the first game of the AFC tournament after the strike-shortened 1982 season. The Steelers beat the Chargers 11-10 in Heinz Field on Nov. 16.


The Steelers allowed just one carry of longer than 22 yards during the regular season, but the Chargers can't get too far away from their ground game even with RB LaDainian Tomlinson unlikely to play. Backups Darren Sproles and Michael Bennett must keep chipping away to help set up Rivers. If not, Pittsburgh can turn the dogs loose with its aggressive pass rush and San Diego doesn't want to play from behind in temperatures expected to be below freezing. The 5-6 Sproles won't move any piles, but his quickness as a runner and receiver should be an asset against Pittsburgh's athletic defense.

Chargers QB Ben Roethlisberger wasn't playing particularly well even before he suffered a concussion in the regular-season finale. He said there are no lingering side effects, but look for the Steelers to do their best to get their sporadic running game untracked out of the gate. RB Willie Parker should get plenty of early carries to help ease Roethlisberger into the game and keep San Diego honest defensively. The Chargers are applying more pressure under coordinator Ron Rivera, and poor protection has led to a steady diet of big hits for Roethlisberger all season.


Sproles' 328 total yards last weekend was the third-highest single-game total in postseason history.

Steelers WR Hines Ward needs 159 receiving yards to pass John Stallworth (1,054) for franchise's career postseason record.

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