It's likely that we'll be seeing a lot more of Correll Buckhalter this week in New York. He'll be an injury replacement – but not for Brian Westbrook.
With regular fullback Dan Klecko doubtful with a shoulder injury, head coach Andy Reid said to expect a lot of twin-back sets with both Westbrook and Buckhalter in the backfield at the same time. When Westbrook is on the sidelines taking a breather, Reid said, Kyle Eckel will work in at Klecko's spot.
Despite the injury, Klecko was able to do some light work in Friday's practice, where the only player to sit out completely was tackle Jon Runyan (knee). Runyan is questionable for Sunday's game, but is expected to play.
Still, the Eagles seem to be in pretty good shape, health-wise. Defensive end Victor Abiamiri (Lis Franc sprain) is probable, and even Shawn Andrews (back) got some work in this week. Though Andrews is out for Sunday's game, he could make his way back should the Eagles advance.
They'll need their health, though, on Sunday – every Giant, including running back Brandon Jacobs and defensive end Justin Tuck, practiced on Friday.
FROM THE COACH'S DESK
In the conditions Sunday's game will likely present to the Eagles, field position might be one of the more overlooked factors that could contribute directly to a victory or a defeat.
It's pretty simple – if the Eagles have consistently solid field position, they typically win (Week 14 at New York, Week 17 vs. Dallas). If they don't, they lose (Week 16 at Washington).
So special teams coordinator Rory Segrest has been stressing the importance of the field position game in practice this week. The Giants give up the second-worst starting field position in football after kickoffs (30.7-yard line), and the Eagles will look to exploit that statistic.
"If you look at their average start, it's probably not one of the best in the league, but they're not giving up a lot of return yardage," Segrest said. "They're kind of sacrificing one for the other in terms of just being consistent, getting the ball where they want to have it start, as opposed to having that long return given up against them."
But Segrest gave the Giants' kicking tandem of punter Jeff Feagles and placekicker John Carney credit for handling the notoriously tough winds in Giants Stadium. But if there's anyone who can do it well, it's these two guys. "Veteran" doesn't even begin to describe them – both players appear in the classic video game Tecmo Super Bowl, alongside the likes of Joe Montana, Steve Grogan and Bo Jackson.
So the Eagles, too, have to counter with some more experienced players on their return and coverage units. Key defense contributors like Quintin Mikell, Akeem Jordan, Lito Sheppard and Omar Gaither have all played prominent roles on special teams, as well.
"Those guys are starters and they're still contributing on special teams. I think they just understand that field position is critical," Segrest said. "Especially here in the playoffs, once you get to that point, you have to do whatever it takes to win and those guys are doing a nice job of that."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB Brian Westbrook
Westbrook has gained at least 123 yards of total offense against the Giants in eight of the last nine games he's played against New York, including a career-high 33 carries for 131 yards in the Eagles' 20-14 win over New York at the Meadowlands in Week 14. Westbrook had a 30-yard run and 40-yard catch, both of which went for touchdowns. When healthy, Westbrook is by far the most explosive player on either team.
CB Asante Samuel
If revenge is a dish best served cold, then Samuel is due to have a big game against the Giants. New York upset Samuel's Patriots in last season's Super Bowl and, perhaps more importantly, Samuel took some heat for being out of position on Giants receiver David Tyree's game-changing catch. Samuel has played well in the two regular-season meetings, but he would like nothing better than to return last season's favor and help knock the Giants out of the playoffs.
CB Aaron RossThe Giants will enter the divisional playoff game against the Eagles without veteran cornerback Sam Madison, who's out for the playoffs with a broken ankle suffered in the last game of the regular season. Ross was ruled out prior to that game with a concussion, leaving the Giants' secondary in shambles. Considering the way the Eagles like to spread the ball around, New York will need every hand on deck if it hopes to slow down Philadelphia's attack.
TE Kevin Boss
In the first meeting between the Giants and Eagles in Week 10, Boss was New York's leading receiver, catching six passes for 69 yards and a touchdown in a five-point Giants win. In the rematch at the Meadowlands a month later, Boss was held to one catch for five yards in a six-point loss to the Eagles. New York will need more production from their tight end, but ever since the Eagles put linebacker Akeem Jordan in the starting lineup, that's been easier said than done.
KEEP AN EYE ON ... QB Donovan McNabb
Talk all you want about the running game, the end result will fall upon the shoulders of the team's franchise quarterback.
McNabb threw for 300 yards in last Sunday's win over Minnesota, his first playoff game since Super Bowl XXXIX. He made outstanding throws under pressure and kept drives alive with clutch third-down strikes.
The Giants racked up 42 sacks this season, led by defensive end Justin Tuck, but none of them came against the Eagles. In fact, the Giants have only six sacks in the last four games.
But they are well-rested after the bye week.
McNabb has a lot of memories against the Giants. Remember the pass to James Thrash with under two minutes left that lifted the Eagles to a 10-9 win on Monday Night Football back in 2001?
In all, McNabb owns an 8-7 record against the Giants as a starter with 3,127 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has three 300-yard games against the G-Men and three games with a QB rating over 100.
His best performance came in September 2004 when he threw four touchdowns and 330 yards in a 31-17 win.
- Running back Brian Westbrook has scored a touchdown in four straight playoff games.
- Rookie receiver DeSean Jackson had 109 punt-return yards against Minnesota last week, the most by an Eagle in a playoff game.
- In his career, cornerback Asante Samuel has played in 15 playoff games and has compiled a 12-3 record and his 202 interception-return yards are the most in NFL playoff history.
- In nine career meetings with the Giants (including playoffs), defensive end Trent Cole has seven sacks and an interception return for a touchdown.
- Quarterback Donovan McNabb has thrown for 300-plus in his last two playoff games.
- The Giants have the most postseason appearances in NFL history (30).
- Including the postseason, Giants quarterback Eli Manning is 26-8 in his last 34 games.
- When New York running back Brandon Jacobs carries the ball 10 times or more, the Giants are 25-5. When he rushes for more than 100 yards, the team is 8-1.
- Including playoffs, New York has won nine straight games when receiver Amani Toomer has a touchdown catch.
- In the past 17 games including playoffs, New York defensive end Justin Tuck has 14 sacks. The Giants are 13-3 and they've won eight in a row when Tuck records a sack.