Quick slants

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:20 AM ET

STACK 'EM UP

QB

Donovan McNabb has become more of a pocket passer which has led to fewer mistakes.

* Tom Brady hates it, but deserves to be mentioned with Joe Montana as a big-game QB.

RB

Brian Westbrook is much as threat as a receiver as he is as a running back.

* Corey Dillion has big-play capability with move-the-chains reliability.

WR

* Terrell Owens is the showstopper. If he is healthy Philly's chances improve big time.

Troy Brown is just one of the many weapons Brady utilizes in passing attack.

Defence

Jevon Kearse could put some heat on Brady, which is one thing Pats have avoided.

* Tedy Bruschi is part of a linebacking corps that uses many varied looks.

SPECIAL TEAMS

David Akers has had one of his best years and can deliver in the red zone.

* Adam Vinatieri has kicked two Bowl-winners and is the most reliable in the league.

COACHES

Andy Reid has sometimes lacked in game management but isn't far behind Belichick.

* Bill Belichick has a plan for every situation and will figure out how to slow Philly.

KEY MATCHUP

Brian Westbrook vs. Patriots LBs.

The New England defence is notorious for focussing on one aspect of the opponent's defence and shutting it down. In Westbrook, the Eagles have a running back who is a duel threat as a receiver and has dictated the flow of the offence. If they contain him, the Patriots are confident that receivers Terrell Owens -- in his first game back from injury -- plus Freddie Mitchell and Todd Pinkston, can be kept in check.

EAGLES WIN IF ...

Keys to victory for Philadelphia

Terrell Owens plays and has an impact. The Eagles need big plays because the Patriots are likely to clog up the middle to limit halfback Brian Westbrook and quarterback Donovan McNabb. On defence, Philly will need to stop Corey Dillon so they can bring some heat on quarterback Tom Brady. Otherwise, it could be a long evening.

PATRIOTS WIN IF ...

Keys to victory for New England

They do what they have been doing for most of the past three seasons. QB Brady has never lost a post-season game at the pro or college level and needs to continue to utilize several receivers to keep the Eagles guessing. On defence, the Pats can afford to bend, as they are capable of, but not break by yielding a monster play. They also must do a better job containing McNabb than the Falcons did two weeks ago.

KEY MATCHUP

Corey Dillon vs. Jeremiah Trotter.

As if they needed the help, the Patriots are a much more potent threat this year with the addition of RB Dillon. A big-play buster as well as a clock-eating, grind-it-out style back, Dillon can take control of a game. Remember Dillon rumbled for 144 yards in a playoff win over the Colts and his 1,635 regular-season yards were more than double that of the Eagles' Brian Westbrook. But if Trotter and the other Eagles LBs can at least plug up the middle, they can focus on what they have done so well in their two playoff wins -- rush the quarterback.

BOTTOM LINE

Rob Longley predicts the outcome

As the experts in Vegas so often do, the spread seems to be right where it should be with the Patriots favoured by seven. Unfortunately, that opens the door for a late-score cover should the Eagles be able to keep it close. More likely though, the Patriots are too deep in too many places and will use that to their advantage. It may not be a blowout, because the Patriots rarely do that to their opponents, but it should be a comfortable margin just the same.

Patriots 27, Eagles 13

IMPACT PLAYER

Patriots safety Rodney Harrison.

The oft-fined heavy-hitter is often accused of being borderline dirty. He is as intense as the Ravens' Ray Lewis. Don't be surprised if he lights up trash-talking Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell and is the first to test the health of Terrell Owens. Veteran makes up for some of the inexperience the Patriots have back here.

IMPACT PLAYER

Eagles free safety Brian Dawkins.

Dawkins hits to hurt and will be a key in disrupting the Patriots successful passing attack. His thunderous hits in the NFC Championship game had the Falcons on their heels and set the tone for the victory. His coverage is often by instinct and he has a great ability to sniff out where the ball is coming from.

KEY MATCHUP

Donovan McNabb vs. Pats secondary.

So much has been said and written about Terrell Owens, but McNabb is the key. In the past, he has had accuracy problems, which is the type of performance these Patriots defenders devour. The secondary is still banged-up however. As incredulous as it seemed, the Colts didn't even try to test them deep in their divisional loss three weeks ago. McNabb has to at least try and then be on the money as well.

BOOKIE SAYS

Some betting Numbers for the game

Patriots opened as 61/2 point favourites and were quickly bet up to a touchdown where it has for the most part stayed. Some books moved the Patriots to 71/2 points yesterday, however ... Patriots were 14-point dogs when they won the Bowl three seasons ago -- the second longest shot wo win outright ... The AFC is 5-12 in the past eight Super Bowls ... The Eagles are 0-4 vs. the spread vs. AFC teams this year while New England is 4-0 ATS vs. the NFC ... Only six times the favourite has won and failed to cover (last year was one, when Carolina beat the spread against the Pats.)


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