Still Battling

In the final two weeks of the regular season, the New Orleans Saints are facing the same road they faced last year to get to the Super Bowl. This time, they're just battling to get into the postseason.

The Saints look for a third straight win when they host the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday in a rematch of an NFC divisional round game from last season.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made New Orleans -3 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game, the over/under has been set at 47 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 64% of bets for this game have been placed on New Orleans -3 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

New Orleans (7-7) has fought back to get to the .500 mark for the second time this season. The Saints bounced back from an 0-4 start with four straight wins before losing three of their next four.

It wasn't supposed to be this difficult for the Saints, who beat the Eagles at home before losing at Chicago in the NFC championship game a season ago. New Orleans visits the Bears in next week's regular-season finale.

Right now, the Saints just want to remain in contention. They will be eliminated with a loss to Philadelphia (6-8) and if Minnesota beats Washington on Sunday night.

"They understand that the margin for error is pretty slim and we have to play good football here in these last two games," coach Sean Payton said. "I think it's a lot more challenging when the subject comes up with five weeks, four weeks, six weeks left in the season."

New Orleans took a major step by helping eliminate Arizona with a 31-24 win last Sunday. Drew Brees continued his stellar recent play by completing 26 of 30 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns.

It was the second straight 300-yard effort for Brees, who was named NFC offensive player of the week. He also has eight touchdowns and no interceptions in his last three games.

"He's played at a very high level over the last two-thirds of this season," Payton said, "and he's a big reason that we're still hanging around."

Brees was the most likely Saint to earn Pro Bowl honors, but Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck was selected as the NFC's third quarterback. New Orleans is one of seven teams without a Pro Bowler.

The Eagles had two players named to the squad in guard Shawn Andrews and tailback Brian Westbrook, who is second in the NFC with 1,191 yards rushing and leads all running backs with 83 receptions.

"This guy, he blocks, he catches, he runs, he can think on the field," coach Andy Reid said. "He's a valuable guy in a lot of areas. He's not just OK in those areas, he's special in those areas."

Philadelphia was eliminated from playoff contention despite ending a three-game losing streak by winning 10-6 at NFC East champion Dallas last week.

The news about the Eagles continues to center around whether Donovan McNabb will be back in a Philadelphia uniform after it was reported that the quarterback doesn't feel welcome by the organization.

Reid defended McNabb after Sunday's win.

"If you can't love him for what he did today, then I don't know," the coach said. "He has been doing it for nine years and just keeps playing."

Philadelphia dropped both visits to the Superdome last season by scores of 27-24. In the regular-season matchup on Oct. 15, the Eagles led 24-17 in the fourth quarter before the Saints rallied to win on John Carney's 31-yard field goal as time expired.

The rematch in the playoffs featured Jeff Garcia as Eagles quarterback in place of an injured McNabb. Philadelphia built a 21-13 lead in the third quarter before the Saints again came back to end the Eagles' six-game winning streak.

"Those were both hard-fought games that could have gone either way when you really look at the way they finished," Payton said. "In both cases, both teams had leads that went back and forth. Defensively, both teams came up and made big plays and offensively the same way."

Westbrook had a huge game in the playoffs with 116 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. The Saints, however, managed a time of possession edge of nearly 11 minutes in that game after holding the ball for more than eight minutes more than the Eagles in the regular-season meeting.

"We haven't done too well against them the last couple of times and we're looking to put together a better game than what we have in the past," Reid said.

The Saints hope to have leading rusher Reggie Bush available Sunday. Bush has missed the last two games with a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, received bad news on the injury front Wednesday when it placed linebacker Takeo Spikes on injured reserve with a torn rotator cuff. Spikes is second on the Eagles with 139 tackles.

By: Staff Writers - Email Us

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