The League

Zach Leibowitz
Sideline Reporter

Zach Leibowitz

A former sideline reporter for ESPN



There is little margin for error for the remaining eight starting quarterbacks in this post-season. One flat performance, poor pass, fumbled snap, blindsided hit or one moment of time mismanagement -- that could be the difference between a conference championship appearance and an afternoon of playing Nintendo Wii Golf.

Each of the final eight must "show up" because no team can afford a disappointing performance from their field general. It will result in a loss, no matter the host team and no matter the seeding. Last season, we saw Eli Manning's 5th-seeded Giants go the distance. We saw Ben Roethlisberger's 6th-seeded Steelers win the Super Bowl a couple years prior. And Trent Dilfer led a 4th-seeded Ravens squad to a surprise championship in 2000. There's no question that defense will be a critical element in each team's success, but one cannot underestimate the importance of steady QB play.

Following yesterday's Andy Reid discussion, one cannot overlook the incredible value of Donovan McNabb given the circumstances. I don't care if Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter are healthy, or whether Trent Cole and Brian Dawkins are playing inspired football; if McNabb throws third-and-five passes into the ground or sails them high over his receiver's heads, the Eagles won't win the ballgame. Not on the road. McNabb's increased value is that he's started to move around again. He's starting to create plays again outside the pocket and he's comfortable relying on his second and third receivers and backup tight-ends.

In Divisional Playoff Games over McNabb's career, the Philly QB is 4-1. The loss was to the Giants in 2000. And it's always been a battle for McNabb at Giants Stadium. He struggled mightily in that playoff contest. He couldn't get a first down early in the game and threw a costly interception that Jason Sehorn took back for a touchdown. But that was almost a decade ago. Hopefully for the Eagles, this game won't bring it full circle for McNabb.

The Giants are the Super Bowl champions and a formidable foe at home. This is not an easy task for McNabb's team, no matter how many Sports Illustrated covers the Eagles appeared on this week. Is that ever a good sign, by the way? Outside of 1980, this has been the ultimately unique year for Philadelphia sports. The Phillies won the World Series, much to New York's dismay. The Eagles were benched and left for dead. Yet they're still alive because of a little karma and strong play from their franchise QB.

And if Donovan can be dynamite Sunday, he could provide the spark to keep the Eagles soaring.

By Zach Leibowitz  |  January 9, 2009; 6:25 PM ET  | Category:  Arizona Cardinasl , Carolina Panthers , New York Giants , Philadelphia Eagles , Pittsburgh Steelers , San Diego Chargers , Zach Leibowitz Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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