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NFC Championship Game: Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals

Brian Westbrook will be the latest top rusher Arizona faces.

Getty Images

Brian Westbrook will be the latest top rusher Arizona faces.

HOW THE EAGLES GOT HERE: Third best in the NFL defensively during the regular season, the Eagles curtailed the league's leading rushing, Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, in the wild-card game. Then they stopped the Giants on two second-half fourth downs Sunday and generated three turnovers in making reigning Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning look meek. QB Donovan McNabb and RB Brian Westbrook continue to make enough big plays at opportune times.

HOW THE CARDINALS GOT HERE: Arizona used a fumble recovery for a touchdown by Antrel Rolle and Tim Hightower's touchdown run in the second half to overcome Atlanta in the wild-card game. Then it routed second-seeded Carolina, 8-0 at home during the regular season, on Saturday to prolong its first playoff run in a decade. The Cardinals intercepted Jake Delhomme five times and recovered his fumble.

EAGLES' KEY MATCHUP: The defense finished the regular season third against the pass (182 yards per game). In the playoffs, it's second at 161 yards a game with no touchdowns. Cardinals QB Kurt Warner will be the most dangerous passer they have faced, however. He has amassed 491 yards and four scores in his two playoff games.

CARDINALS' KEY MATCHUP: The Cardinals ranked 16th against the run during the regular season, allowing 110.2 yards per game. They have done a better job in blunting three of the league's top rushers (Atlanta's Michael Turner and Carolina's DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart) and now face Brian Westbrook.

HISTORY: The Eagles shellacked the Cardinals 48-20 at home in Week 13.

X FACTOR: Do the Cardinals suddenly realize they're not supposed to play this well?

CARDINALS WILL GET TO TAMPA IF: They keep believing they belong. Offing the Falcons at home was one thing, but dominating Carolina — after going 0-5 in their previous East Coast games — was another. QB Kurt Warner is playing like a two-time MVP again. And he has weapons in WR Larry Fitzgerald, RB Tim Hightower and resurgent two-time rushing champ Edgerrin James.

EAGLES WILL GET TO TAMPA IF: They maintain the focus they found against Arizona in Week 13 and kept in winning three of their final four regular-season games, including a knockout game against Dallas in Week 17.

Brant James, Times staff writer

NUMBERS

0 NFC championships for the Cardinals in franchise history.

5 NFC Championship Game appearances by the Eagles under coach Andy Reid.

230 Rushing yards for the Cardinals' Edger­rin James, above, in his past three games.

414 Rushing yards for James in his first 15 games this season.

GO-TO GUYS

Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald has 267 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs.

Eagles: Asante Samuel has two interceptions this postseason. He returned one, against Minnesota, for a score; the other, against New York, to the 2.

NFC Championship Game: Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals 01/11/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 11, 2009 9:51pm]
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