Philadelphia Do's and Don't's:
Do your best to pack extra ice in the cooler. Brandon Jacobs is going to run, run, and run some more against the Eagles defense. The Giants should be wise enough to know you can't "save" a back for future games he's not guaranteed to see. A steady diet of Jacobs must be expected by Jim Johnson's defense, no matter how successful or unsuccessful the bruising back is on the Giants' opening few drives. All it takes is one brutal run downfield to inflict physical and psychological damage on an opposing defense.
Do whatever it takes to isolate Brian Westbrook on Antonio Pierce. Pierce is talented, but no linebacker in the NFL can keep up with Westbrook in the open field. Memories of Westbrook's TD against the G-Men last month have to be ringing through defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's head. As they should.
Do your best to involve Kevin Curtis early. While Troy Aikman went a bit overboard in calling Curtis a potential "great player", Curtis has plenty of downfield speed to spare and can run a sharp corner route against soft coverage. He's Philly's top wideout-option (not named Westbrook, of course) and has proven that he is capable of going nucking futs if he starts going early.
Don't allow Kevin Boss to go unchecked in the secondary. Plaxico is going to be TERRIBLY missed. Duh. Nevertheless, Hixon deep and Steve Smith in the slot on third down can't be the only two objectives for Dawkins, Samuel, and company in the secondary. Boss often goes weeks without catches; yet, has just enough playoff experience and is sneaky-good in the redzone with Eli.
Don't let Darren Howard underperform. I'm not sure exactly how you do that; nevertheless, Howard needs to be in the backfield - among several other talented Iggle defensive lineman - and all over Eli Manning (get ready for it now...early and often). Rattling a Super Bowl MVP won't occur easily. However, I do believe Eli can be frustrated and the rush game can stall out at times. Not without a consistent in-your-face pass rush though.
New York Do's and Don't's:
Do use the Meadowlands to your advantage. The wind is one a kind and Donovan McNabb - despite tremendous poise last weekend - has been frustrated before in this stadium. Nothing will help your team (and the crowd) more then a strong start on offense and a 7-0 lead up on the scoreboard. Put the pressure on McNabb to throw the ball to keep up with your offense, especially if the elements are willing to help your defense.
Do your best to pop Hixon deep early. His drop several weeks ago still has to sting a bit, despite a solid performance after Plaxico went down from the emerging wideout talent. While Burress is obviously a noted absence, Eli seems to have developed a strong chemistry with Hixon. Use that to your advantage, especially since Assante Samuel (perhaps the top postseason NFL CB since a younger Ty Law) owns the flats and sidelines.
Don't allow Donovan McNabb to feel comfortable in the pocket. McNabb proved last week that despite a rush game that doesn't click immediately, if he has time he's going to beat you down the field. While Philly doesn't have an electric offense, they'll dink and dunk their way downfield very effectively; especially with their talented RBs in the screen game. If only LJ Smith didn't stink so much. If the Giant front four - particularly Fred Robbins up the middle and Justin Tuck on the edge - stall early, big problems may ensue downfield for their secondary.
Don't keep your eyes off of DeSean Jackson. He's one-of-a-kind on punt returns, reverses, and (yes, even) as a wide receiver. Any space and Jackson has the ability to take it to the house. It's tough enough gameplanning for the speed of Westbrook in the open field; however, Philly has a rookie wideout just begging for a playoff touchdown for the ages.
Don't forget about field position. John Carney has been nothing short of a godsend this season and has plenty of leg for this stadium, despite being on the wrong side of 40 years old. If the field goal isn't available, wise punting has to be practiced with the dangerous aformentioned Jackson waiting. The Giants' ability to both sack the quarterback and force costly turnovers is one of their greatest assetts. Nothing will help this team more than frustrating McNabb and Andy Reid deep inside their own territory.
When Philadelphia has the ball...
OTs Tra Thomas & John Runyan vs. DE Justin Tuck
I already took plenty of time to talk about the obvious: Brian Westbrook vs. Antonio Pierce. Instead, I'm going to take a chapter out of Sum and Armin's previews and talk about the play of offensive tackles and defensive ends. While previous matchups focused on names like Terrell Suggs and Julius Peppers on the defensive side, there might not be a more talented young, stud defensive end than Justin Tuck. Enter into the equation the play of two recognized Eagle tackles (Tra Thomas & John Runyan). If they bully and stymie Tuck early on the pass rush, it's the rush game that wins out most. Funny how that works, huh?
When New York has the ball...
RBs Brandon Jacobs & Derrick Ward vs. Philadelphia LBs (who remain nameless)
With all due-respect to Ahmad Bradshaw, I'll be surprised if the Giants gameplan more than 4-5 touches for him. Meanwhile, I already talked about the likely tremendous impact Jacobs will have on this game. Second half-stud Derrick Ward can't be forgotten either. Lethal in the late stages of several key games down the stretch this season, surprisingly in the short passing game as well as rushing the ball, Ward offers a surprising "breath of fresh air" for opposing defenses. Enter the somewhat unknown Eagle LBs. Not only will they have a runaway bulldozer coming at them; but also a talented fleet-footed back who will seem oddly fresh early in the second half. Good luck, gentlemen.
Haven't I Seen You Before???
I'm not going to rant about this, yet it matters a TON. This teams have seen each two times a year since the Bronze Age (didn't I use that reference last week?). In fact, in years past they've seen each other three times. Something tells me neither team will be too surprised at what the other throws at them. That usually means the bread-and-butter wins out. I gotta favor the G-Men's to the Eagles, despite being sans-Plaxico.
Legacies for Quarterbacks
Don't look now, but if Eli has two Super Bowl rings to brother Peyton's one, a legitimate conversation may arise as to who will have the greater legacy. Meanwhile, McNabb might not be Philly-bound for much longer. I can't help but wonder if his legacy may be far too clouded in the puking-incident against the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Both quarterbacks know that a win puts them in the driver's seat for the Super Bowl. Not a shabby place to cement your legacy...on your own terms.
Final Score Prediction
NY Giants win, 33-24