1:00 PM ET, December 24, 2006
Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
New Orleans (9-5) at NY Giants (7-7) Sunday 1:00 pm EST
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- The New Orleans Saints have proved a team can be transformed in the NFL from a three-win team to a division champion in just one season. The New York Giants hope to join the Saints in the postseason party.
A week after clinching the NFC South title, the Saints will visit the Giants, who can clinch a playoff spot this weekend if a number of things fall in their favor.
Last season, the Saints were displaced by Hurricane Katrina and finished 3-13. They even played what was called a "home" game at Giants Stadium - a 27-10 loss to New York - in Week Two.
Giants Stadium featured a distinct Louisiana flavor, as members of the New Orleans Police and Fire Departments were guests of the NFL. There also was a telethon during the game for hurricane relief and one of the end zones was painted with the word "Saints."
But it was the Giants who benefited from not having to travel and playing what amounted to an extra home game, although the league did not list it that way.
This Saints team hardly resembles that one. Then the coach was Jim Haslett, the quarterback was Aaron Brooks and the defense was shaky. Now the coach is Sean Payton, the quarterback is Drew Brees and two rookies - running back Reggie Bush and wide receiver Marques Colston - have provided the offense with playmakers.
Payton, a former offensive coordinator with the Giants, has overhauled the roster, bringing in more than 30 players.
The biggest addition was Brees, who was named as the NFC Pro Bowl starting quarterback on Tuesday. Brees leads the NFL with 4,240 passing yards and tops the NFC with 25 touchdown passes.
Bush, the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner and second overall pick in the draft, set a record for rookie running backs with 84 catches for 706 yards and has also rushed for 419 yards. Colston, a seventh-round pick from Hofstra, has 66 receptions for 1,001 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Saints have also benefited from the return of Deuce McAllister, who has rushed for 949 yards this season after suffering a torn ACL in 2005.
Tackle Jammal Brown and defensive end Will Smith were also selected to the Pro Bowl as starters. It was the first Pro Bowl selections for Brown, who has been superb in making the transition from right tackle to left tackle, and Smith, who has 10 1/2 sacks.
The Giants are tied with Atlanta for the second wild-card spot, one game behind Philadelphia. New York can clinch a postseason berth with a win on Sunday combined with losses by Atlanta and Minnesota and wins by Philadelphia and Seattle.
This could be the last home game for Tiki Barber, New York's all-time leading rusher. Barber was named to the Pro Bowl for the third time on Tuesday. He is second in the NFC with 1,357 rushing yards and also has 52 catches for 429 yards.
Barber plans to retire after this season. The Giants close out the campaign at Washington on December 30.
New York tight end Jeremy Shockey was also named to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time in five seasons. He has 64 catches for 626 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Giants have lost five of their last six games, including a 36-22 defeat to Philadelphia last week. Plaxico Burress caught six passes for 120 yards and Shockey had eight receptions for 70 yards.
New York hopes defensive end Michael Strahan, who is tied with Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor for the franchise lead in sacks, will return this Sunday. Strahan has missed the last six games with a sprained foot ligament.
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|Avg Points Allowed||19.4||22.3|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||NO|
|Rush Yds Allowed||NO|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Series tied 2-2|
|Sep 19, 2005||NO 10, NYG 27|
|Dec 14, 2003||NO 45, NYG 7|
|Sep 30, 2001||NO 13, @NYG 21|