washingtonpost.com
GAMEDAY

Keys Questions

The Real T.O. Or Not?

With a healthy Terrell Owens, the Eagles could create matchup problems for New England's defense and probably could stay with the Patriots step for step. The question is, how close will the WR be to full speed on his bad ankle? If he's not able to be a factor, the Eagles could have a tough time staying competitive.

____ Super Bowl XXXIX ____
 Super Bowl 39
Sunday's Super Bowl has turned into a showcase for some of the game's top coordinators.
Michael Wilbon: Take the Eagles on a wing and a player.
Notebook: David Akers and Adam Vinatieri are men with the golden boots.
Gameday: The key questions and matchups.
Paul Tagliabue said the league is considering changes with their plans for television.
Boston sports fans have rediscovered their swagger.
Terrell Owens remains a popular topic of discussion.
It seems everybody has a prediction for Sunday.
Donovan McNabb and the Eagles inspire many area fans.
Good Eating: Recipes and ideas for Super Bowl parties.
Tony Kornheiser: The pageantry, the tradition ... the smell? A Jacksonville Super Bowl.  Reaction?

_____ Basics _____
When: 6:30 p.m., Sunday
Where: Alltell Stad., Jacksonville
TV: Fox
Latest Line: Patriots by 7

_____ On Our Site _____
 NFL gallery
Photos
Bracket
Trivia quiz
Interactive guide, including lineups, profiles and photos.
Discuss the game.
Super Bowl XXXIX Section

____ Audio ____
Owens says he'll be ready.
Belichick gives Eagles their due.
Andy Reid on getting the Eagles ready.
Corey Simon credits the Patriots' offensive line.
Patriots QB Tom Brady stresses the need to perform.

_____ Super Bowl Memories _____
 Super Bowl
Thirty-eight games. Some good, some clunkers. Look back at an event that has grown into one of the largest one-day spectacles in sports.
Here are our favorite Redskins Super Bowl moments.
What's your favorite?
Super Bowl XXVI, the last great hurrah for Redskins fans.

_____NFL Basics_____
Scoreboard
Standings
Statistics
Team index
NFL Section
_____Mark Maske's NFL Insider_____
Weis Is Working Overtime (washingtonpost.com, Feb 4, 2005)
Thomason Settles Into Role With Eagles (washingtonpost.com, Feb 3, 2005)
E. Smith Retirement May Come as Cowboy (washingtonpost.com, Feb 2, 2005)

What Will the Patriots Do To Stop Westbrook?

Eagles RB Brian Westbrook has succeeded Marshall Faulk as the game's most dangerous receiver coming out of the backfield. With Owens ailing, shutting him down will be the defensive key for the Patriots. Westbrook generally embarrasses LBs who attempt to cover him, but Patriots LB Don Davis is so athletic that he has played safety this season and might be able to pull if off.

Can Belichick and Brady Be Beaten When It Really Matters?

Patriots Coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady are playing for even loftier places in history. They're 8-0 in postseason play in tandem, including 2-0 in Super Bowls.

Matchups

Patriots QB Tom Brady vs. Eagles QB Donovan McNabb

They're two of the best in the sport, and either is capable of carrying his team to victory. Brady is trying to win his third Super Bowl MVP award at age 27. The Eagles probably need an MVP performance from McNabb to win. Brady gets the nod only because he's done it before on the Super Bowl stage.

Advantage: Patriots

Patriots WRs Deion Branch and David Givens vs. Eagles CBs Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown

The Patriots' wideouts are not celebrated but, aided by Brady's accuracy, they get the job done. Sheppard and Brown were question marks entering the season after the Eagles allowed veteran CBs Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor to depart as free agents, but they were solid all season.

Advantage: Even

Patriots RB Corey Dillon vs. Eagles' run defense

Philadelphia got nastier and tougher against the run after the in-season lineup reshuffling in which Jeremiah Trotter took over at middle linebacker. But the Eagles will have to prove they can shut down a runner as good as Dillon, who can get to the outside and break off long runs as well as grind out the tough yards between the tackles.

Advantage: Patriots

Patriots' offensive Lline vs. Eagles' defensive line

The Patriots probably will use some maximum-protection schemes to counteract the Eagles' frequent blitzes. That could put the onus on Philadelphia DEs Jevon Kearse and Derrick Burgess to generate a pass rush on Brady themselves by winning their individual matchups with Patriots Ts Matt Light and Brandon Gorin, which they're fully capable of doing. Eagles DT Corey Simon also could be a factor as he goes against Patriots RG Stephen Neal, the former NCAA champion wrestler.

Advantage: Eagles

Eagles WRs Terrell Owens and Todd Pinkston vs. Patriots CBs Asante Samuel and Randall Gay

No offense has found a way to exploit the Patriots' young CBs, who were forced into action because of season-ending injuries to starters Ty Law and Tyrone Poole. With a healthy Owens, the Eagles might be the team to pull that off. Without Owens as a contributor, Pinkston and Freddie Mitchell probably will not.

Advantage: Even

Eagles RBs Brian Westbrook and Dorsey Levens vs. Patriots' run defense

The Eagles don't look to win via their running game. And they wouldn't be able to do so anyway against this defense.

Advantage: Patriots

Eagles' offensive line vs. Patriots' defensive line

The Philadelphia offense has a solid front five and should be able to hold its own at the line of scrimmage, especially if Patriots Pro Bowl DE Richard Seymour is at less than full strength as he returns from a knee injury. The problem for the Eagles' blockers is dealing with versatile New England LBs Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Willie McGinest and Ted Johnson.

Advantage: Eagles

Special Teams

Each club will feel good about its chances if it sends its kicker out for a game-winning field goal. The Eagles' David Akers is about as good as they come, but he is matched up against the top clutch kicker in league history, with the Patriots' Adam Vinatieri having connected on two Super Bowl-winning kicks. If the Eagles pull out all the stops, they'll use Westbrook to return some punts.

Advantage: Patriots

Coaches

The Eagles are solid, with Coach Andy Reid being supported by offensive coordinator Brad Childress and one of the league's top defensive bosses, Jim Johnson. But no one out-schemes the Patriots' brain trust of Coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel when the spotlight is the brightest.

Advantage: Patriots

Intangibles

Patriots: The Patriots' confidence is supreme in this type of game, and coordinators Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel don't want to lose their farewell game under Coach Bill Belichick. The Patriots' season becomes a success only by winning today.

Eagles: The Eagles finally broke through this season after losing three straight NFC title games. But the scrutiny and intensity have gone up a few notches, and Owens's vow to return as a contributor rather than a decoy sets his club up for an emotional letdown if he is unable to pull if off. The Eagles have had a successful season just by taking the next step and reaching the Super Bowl.

Advantage: Patriots

-- Mark Maske


© 2005 The Washington Post Company