Who will be the star of Sunday's NFC Championship Game? Here's a few players who could have a huge role in determining the outcome of the game. Consider them the X-Factors ...
CB Asante Samuel
Key Note: Two interceptions in 2008 postseason, one TD
One fact about the Eagles-Cardinals Thanksgiving showdown that has been overlooked is the fact that Samuel (neck injury) did not play – which was perceived as quite a predicament for an Eagle defense facing off against one of the league's top passing offenses. Also lost in the shuffle is that Larry Fitzgerald (65 yards, two touchdowns) and Steve Breaston (45 yards, one touchdown) each had pretty solid games, overshadowed because the Eagles jumped out to a big lead early.
But Fitzgerald can take over a game, and Samuel will be one of the players trusted with containing him. On the flipside, if the Eagles can pressure Kurt Warner as well as they did in November, it could be a big day for the ballhawking Samuel – Quintin Mikell, Brian Dawkins and Joselio Hanson all recorded interceptions on Thanksgiving.
- JOE DOLAN
QB Kurt Warner
Key Note: Only sacked once in 2008 postseason
Over his career, Warner has just a 2-4 record against the Eagles, but one of those wins came in the 2001 NFC Championship Game. In fact, Warner is undefeated in NFC Championship Games over the course of his career, going 2-0. The Eagles harassed Warner into three interceptions in their first meeting of the season on Thanksgiving night at Lincoln Financial Field. But Warner and the Cardinals are a different beast in the desert. If Warner can avoid mistakes and the Eagles fail to sack him (Warner wasn't sacked in their first meeting of the season), Philadelphia could be in for a battle.
- STEVE LIENERT
RB Brian Westbrook
Key Note: Four touchdowns in Thanksgiving showdown
In the Eagles' two playoff wins, Westbrook only had 74 rushing yards on 38 carries (1.9 avg.) and 93 receiving yards on five catches. Of course, 71 of those receiving yards came on the touchdown reception to seal the win over Minnesota. Of course, Westbrook had struggled in the game before the first meeting with the Cardinals and exploded for 130 yards from scrimmage and a total of four touchdowns. For the first time in the postseason, Westbrook will play on grass which should help his injured knee. The mere threat of Westbrook exploding for a big play, like the reception against the Vikings, allows other Eagles to get open. And the fact that Westbrook continued to get the ball against the Giants despite his struggles, made the play-action touchdown pass to Brent Celek work in the fourth quarter. Westbrook is a warrior and wants to lift the Eagles into the Super Bowl with a dominant performance.
- CHRIS McPHERSON