1. Brian Westbrook
The Eagles’ superstar running back has been virtually shut down the entire postseason. This won’t last. It can’t last. Westbrook will rebound from two of the worst rushing performances of his six-year career with a big game against the Cardinals.
On Thanksgiving night, Westbrook scored four times against the Cardinals’ defense—twice on the ground, and twice through the air. McNabb may be the most important member of the Eagles’ offense, but Westbrook is the most dangerous.
2. Brian Dawkins
The future Hall of Fame safety is playing the best football of his 12-year career. Dawkins forced a fumble against the Vikings in the wild-card round and totaled 10 tackles against the Giants.
His mere presence on the football field is downright scary. With his future as a professional football player in doubt, Dawkins will do whatever it takes to earn a ring.
3. DeSean Jackson
The explosive rookie wide receiver and punt returner for the Eagles brings back memories of Brian Westbrook in 2003, who electrified fans with two regular-season punt-return touchdowns.
Jackson returned a punt 63 yards against the Vikings and set an Eagles single-game record with 105 punt return yards. He caught four passes for 81 yards against the Giants, including a clutch 48-yard reception.
4. Andy Reid
There’s a reason that he chose to grow a playoff beard. Seriously, though, Reid is much more postseason experienced than Ken Whisenhunt. He has led the Eagles into the playoffs seven times, winning five NFC East titles, with one Super Bowl appearance.
Reid watched his sons go to prison last year. Rumors circulated about the future of his job this season. He is a Super Bowl ring away from the Hall of Fame.
Kurt Warner knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs in the 2001 NFC Championship game. Seven Eagles still remain from that team—Donovan McNabb, AJ Feeley, Correll Buckhalter, Tra Thomas, Jon Runyan, Brian Dawkins, and David Akers, as well as head coach Andy Reid.
In 2001, the Rams were the far superior team, winning 14 games en route to their second Super Bowl in three years. But times have changed. The Eagles have been the best team in the NFC since 2001.
The Eagles are the most experienced playoff team of the decade. The NFC Championship game will be their 17th playoff game of the decade, tying the New England Patriots for the most in the new millennium.
The amazing part?
No team in the history of the National Football League has played in more postseason games in one decade. The Cowboys of the 1990s? 16 games. The 1980s 49ers? 17 games. The 1970s Steelers? 17 games. The Eagles will set a single-decade record with 18 postseason games if they win on Sunday.
7. Defense wins games
Defense wins championships. The Eagles’ defense has been the hottest in the NFL over the past six games. They’ve allowed four offensive touchdowns in their past six games. In that same span, the defense has contributed four touchdowns, and missed a fifth by one yard against the Giants last Sunday.
8. David Akers
He is the hottest kicker in the NFL right now. After a dismal start to the 2008 season, Akers rebounded to set an Eagles’ single-season record for field goals made and points scored.
His 51-yard field goal against the Vikings set a team postseason record, and he has a current streak of 18 consecutive postseason field goals without a miss, an NFL record.
The Eagles are the hottest team in the National Football League—so hot, that they beat the Vikings and the Giants by 12 points each, without their offense clicking during most of the games. They have won six of their past seven games, including two straight on the road.
This team was counted out and left for dead just six weeks ago. Now they’re one win away from a second Super Bowl in the last five years.
10. Kurt Warner
The two-time MVP quarterback has always struggled against Jim Johnson’s defense. In five games, his team has won two games and lost three. Warner has thrown seven touchdowns and seven interceptions, mediocre statistics at best. The immobile Warner will be heavily pressured by the Eagles’ powerful defensive line all game.
11. Donovan McNabb
The five-time Pro Bowl quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles should have won Comeback Player of the Year. He is playing with a chip on his shoulder. McNabb is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time to not win a Super Bowl.
He has done more with less over the past ten years than any quarterback in the National Football League. Here’s my favorite Donovan McNabb fact: In his last five full seasons, he has led the Eagles to five NFC championship game appearances.
12. The Phillies
You think the city’s baseball team winning the World Series has nothing to do with the success of the Eagles? Wrong. Philadelphia had a history of losing over the past quarter century. It took 25 dedicated ballplayers to break one of professional sports’ most famous curses, and the Eagles desperately want to join the Phillies as the toast of the town.
All 22 starting players, plus most of the backups, have contributed to the Eagles playoff run. Every game has a new hero. Chris Clemons. Jason Avant. Victor Abiamiri. Kyle Eckel. David Akers. Quintin Mikell.
If the offense has a bad game, the defense takes over. If the defense struggles, the offense dominates. This team is anything but one-dimensional.
14. Are the Cardinals really this good?
The Philadelphia Eagles are superior in virtually every category. No matter which way you compare the teams, Philly comes out on top. There’s a reason the Eagles are favored, despite playing on the road. They ranked fourth in the NFL in point differential during the regular season (+127). The Cardinals ranked 18th in point differential (+1).
The Eagles dismantled the Cardinals during the regular season, 48-20. They have outscored their opponents by an average of 15 points per game over the last seven games, despite playing opponents with a combined record of 60-37. They have been in the postseason seven times in the past decade and are desperate for football’s ultimate prize.
This team is on a mission. Donovan McNabb is 32 years old. Brian Westbrook will be 30 years old next season. Tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan might not be back next season. And Brian Dawkins is considering retirement following the season.
The nucleus of this football team has been around for years, longer than most teams. They’ve seen failures year after year after year. They were left for dead just six weeks ago, with the future of their head coach and quarterback in jeopardy. Now they have risen from the ashes.
They’ve destroyed every team in their path and they’re not going to stop until they reach the ultimate goal: the Lombardi Trophy.