Saints to see different Eagles on Saturday in Superdome
Philadelphia is not the same team that New Orleans beat early this season.
METAIRIE, La. (AP) -- The New Orleans Saints already have beaten the Eagles this season.
Does that really matter anymore in light of the changes to Philadelphia's lineup?
"This is nine weeks later," Saints coach Sean Payton said Monday. "A lot takes place in the course of the year. I think the teams are different."
Donovan McNabb was still at quarterback when the Eagles last arrived in New Orleans at 4-1 and lost on a late field goal. Donte' Stallworth, traded by the Saints to Philadelphia just before the regular season, did not play because of a hamstring injury.
Stallworth, who had 725 yards receiving and five TDs during the regular season, is expected to play Saturday night in the divisional playoff game.
Rejuvenated veteran Jeff Garcia, who connected with Stallworth for a touchdown in a playoff victory over the Giants on Sunday, will be the throwing the passes.
Eagles on six-game streak
And with the Eagles on a six-game winning streak, Payton was quick to downplay the results of Oct. 15, a 27-24 Saints win.
"What helps is you have 16 weeks of games on film, you've got the preseason, you've got the game you played against them the last time, you've got the playoff game, in our case, that they played against New York," Payton said. "That's what you spend time on."
The Saints dedicated Monday to meetings as well as strength and conditioning work, and don't intend to get back on the practice field until today. Players remained out of sight Monday, with only Payton emerging to talk to reporters.
The Eagles were reeling in midseason and have had games with relatively high stakes every week since. They are now one of the hottest teams in the NFC.
"You want to be playing good football as you enter the postseason," Payton said. "You need to credit Philadelphia to be able to make an adjustment midstream, especially [losing] a player like a Donovan McNabb.
"Jeff's done a great job of executing the game plans that they've put together. He's gotten the ball to his playmakers, he's made good decisions and he hasn't turned it over. As a result, they've won a bunch of games now."
New Orleans will be well-rested, having played the starters little in the last regular-season game before getting additional rest during the bye week.
Payton, who is hoping to have receiver Joe Horn back for the first time since Dec. 3, did not express concern over the recent time off.
"I don't anticipate being rusty," Payton said. "We'll be ready to play."
Another matter Payton downplayed was playoff experience. The Saints do not have much compared to the Eagles, who have missed the playoffs only once in the last seven seasons. More than half the players on the Saints' 53-man roster have never played a down in the postseason. Two of the Saints' more seasoned playoff veterans -- defensive tackle Hollis Thomas and linebacker Mark Simoneau -- got their experience with Philadelphia.
"Our players understand the significance of a home playoff game to this town and what it means," Payton said. "It's the same approach we've tried to take all season. ... Our plan is to put together a good work week of practice and focus on all of the little things, like we have done in all of the games we've played so far."
Team officials are hoping to recreate the ambiance for the only other prime-time game played at the dome this season, when the Saints steamrolled Atlanta in an emotionally charged Monday nighter that marked the reopening of the stadium for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.
In the media work room at Saints headquarters, team officials led in a brass band playing "When the Saints Go Marching In" as they announced pregame festivities planned outside the dome.
Saints executive Rita Benson LeBlanc, granddaughter of team owner Tom Benson, said the Steve Miller Band would headline a free concert that also would include performances by blues singer Luther Kent and the locally popular Rebirth Brass Band.
Officials portrayed the event as a massive pep-rally for a franchise that has never hosted a second-round playoff game.
Earlier, Payton also alluded to the crowd's role in the Atlanta game as he discussed whether the Saints, 4-4 at home this season, might gain any advantage from playing in the dome this weekend.
"It can get crazy and loud on a night game, and I think fans are looking forward to that, so that's exciting."
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