The National Football League playoffs continue Sunday with the Philadelphia Eagles playing the Atlanta Falcons at home and the reigning champion New England Patriots visiting the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Eagles are hoping to end years of frustration and make it to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1981.
Like this year, a Republican President had just been inaugurated when the Philadelphia Eagles last appeared in the Super Bowl. It was the late President Ronald Reagan, in his first term, in 1981.
The Eagles lost that year to the Oakland Raiders. This year, the Eagles are hoping to end a long Super Bowl drought and three straight losses in the National Conference title game that prevented them from reaching the NFL championship game.
Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb led the Eagles to those Conference title games, but has not been able to get them to the Super Bowl. But this year, he says the Eagles are confident of winning.
"You know in situations like this your confidence continues to grow," said Donovan McNabb. "And I think it is at a high right now where we feel that you know once this week is over, with game planning and practicing, we are going to be ready to go on Sunday."
The Eagles face the Atlanta Falcons, and their all-star quarterback Michael Vick. The Falcons quarterback teamed with Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett to rush for 327 yards in the divisional win last week over Saint Louis.
Vick says he knows the Eagles want to exorcise the demons of losing in the big game, but he also wants to win.
"They know what it is like to play in the NFC championship game," said Michael Vick. "They have been here three years in a row and obviously we know that their goal is to get back and to have opportunities. This is my first time here. What I want to do is just go out and play my game and try to give my team the opportunity to advance to the next level, which is the Super Bowl."
Also Sunday, the reigning champion New England Patriots visit Heinz Field to take on the 15 -1 Pittsburgh Steelers. The last time these two teams met, Pittsburgh handed New England one of its two losses this season, October 31 also in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers are counting on rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisburger to lead them to their first Super Bowl appearance in nine years. The Patriots have won the title two of the last three years. Super Bowl 39 is February 6 in Jacksonville, Florida.