G-Men Thinking Playoffs

Eli Manning waited until almost the last moment to lead the New York Giants to a comeback win last week. The Philadelphia Eagles will also need to come on late if they want to make the playoffs.

Eagles coach Andy Reid still believes his 5-7 team has a good chance to make the postseason, but Philadelphia likely needs a victory Sunday when it hosts the New York Giants in a key matchup of NFC East rivals.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Philadelphia -3 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday's game, the over/under has been set at 42.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 66% of bets for this game have been placed on New York +3 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

The expected return of quarterback Donovan McNabb after he missed two games with ankle and thumb injuries could boost the Eagles' chances. Philadelphia lost both of those contests - including a 28-24 home defeat to Seattle last week - as backup A.J. Feeley threw costly late interceptions each time.

Sunday's loss dropped Philadelphia into a tie with four teams and left it one game behind three 6-6 clubs that are tied for the last NFC wild-card spot. Despite the crowded race and the fact that the Eagles' remaining schedule includes the Giants (8-4) and 11-1 Dallas, Reid is staying optimistic.

"We still have an opportunity here to win some football games with four games left," he said. "We put ourselves in a nice position here for postseason play."

The Giants are in better position, sitting two games ahead of their closest wild-card competitors. It didn't look like it would be that way for much of last week's 21-16 win in Chicago, though, as the embattled Manning turned the ball over three times in the first three quarters.

The ugliest was an interception in the end zone on 3rd-and-goal at the 1 with the Giants trailing 16-7 late in the third. Manning, however, rebounded in the final quarter, directing two long touchdown drives as New York pulled out the win to improve to 5-1 on the road.

"He's a guy that continues to fight," cornerback Sam Madison said. "He comes out to practice after getting booed a lot by the media and everybody else. Yet still he's the first person out at practice and the last person to leave. ... Messing up and having bad situations is part of the game, but you just have to fight back and play four quarters."

The win quelled talk of another late-season meltdown for the Giants, who began 6-2 last year but stumbled into the playoffs at 8-8 and lost 23-20 at Philadelphia in the wild-card round. A defeat at Chicago would have been their third in four games.

"Really, 8-4 is huge," said wide receiver Amani Toomer, whose touchdown catch capped the first of the Giants' two late drives last week. "For us, I think it's huge for our psyche, this team, this organization. Hopefully, we can use this win as a springboard, get some confidence and keep going into the playoffs."

On Sunday, New York will start its third different running back in three weeks, as Brandon Jacobs is expected to return after missing two games with a hamstring injury. It comes at the perfect time for the Giants, who saw Derrick Ward return last week after missing four games due to injuries and rush for a career-high 154 yards, only to suffer a broken leg that will end his season.

Veteran Reuben Droughns, whose 2-yard run was the winning score against the Bears, had started at tailback the week before.

Philadelphia's running back situation has been much more stable, with Brian Westbrook leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,598. He needs six yards for his second straight 1,000-yard rushing season.

Westbrook has sat out only one game this season, but his offense was sorely missed in the Eagles' 16-3 loss to New York on Sept. 30.

Westbrook has at least 120 yards from scrimmage in each of his last six games against the Giants, including 141 rushing yards in last season's playoff game. With him sidelined for this season's earlier meeting, New York keyed on McNabb and set a franchise record and tied a league mark with 12 sacks - a team-record six by Osi Umenyiora.

Second-year left tackle Winston Justice, who was filling in for veteran William Thomas, had drawn the assignment on Umenyiora. Thomas also missed his only game of the season that day.

The Eagles have come up just short of knocking off winning teams in their last two games. They led in the fourth quarter against unbeaten New England before losing 31-28 and had a chance to rally against 8-4 Seattle, but Feeley interceptions sealed both defeats.

"It's frustrating the way we've lost some of these games," safety Brian Dawkins said.

McNabb will likely step in this week, but he's struggled with inconsistency a season after knee surgery. He's 14-15 as a starter the last three seasons, and was 3-of-11 with two interceptions before getting hurt three weeks ago against winless Miami.

The Eagles also expect to get back defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley and safety Quintin Mikell, both of whom missed the Seattle game with knee injuries.

"We still have an opportunity. Even playing and losing the games we have lost, we still have the opportunity," Westbrook said. "We have to go out there and fight for these last four games and try to get in a situation so we can make the playoffs."

By: Staff Writers - Email Us

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