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Ready for a rude reception

Giants center Shaun O'Hara (right) and guard Chris Snee (center) put an emphasis on blitz recognition during yesterday's practice. Giants center Shaun O'Hara (right) and guard Chris Snee (center) put an emphasis on blitz recognition during yesterday's practice. (KATHY WILLENS/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The New York Giants have a message for Philly: Bring on the boobirds.

Heading into Sunday's first-round playoff game against the Eagles, the Giants expect plenty of venom from the notoriously boorish fans at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field. And that's just the way they like it.

"We love boos," linebacker Antonio Pierce said.

The Giants (8-8) have embraced their underdog status against the Eagles (10-6). They've been written off by the media and have adopted the us-against-the-world mentality that troubled teams always seem to use as a rallying point.

"That's the way the season has been all the way with the media," Pierce said. "Everybody picked against us, so we're just going to go with that theme and stay with it."

They won't get any sympathy from the Eagles, who were counted out when they were 5-6 and Donovan McNabb was lost for the season. Typical of most division rivalries, the teams don't like each other much.

"It's always a physical game, a lot of trash-talking, a lot of hard hitting," Giants wideout Plaxico Burress said. "We don't like each other. I noticed that my first time last year playing against those guys. It's one of those games that each team gets jacked up for. Both cities don't like each other. Our fans don't like their fans and their fans definitely don't like ours."

That explains why Burress enjoyed taunting Philly fans after making the winning catch in New York's 30-24 overtime victory in Week 2.

"It's probably the toughest arena to play in," he said. "Their crowd gets into it. As a receiver, you have to look in at the ball to come off the line and their defense thrives on knowing their corners can get quick jams off you based on the crowd noise, knowing you have to look at the ball and not look at the defense. They feed off of that."

He has much to gain
A Giants victory would prolong Tiki Barber's career by at least one more game. The retirement-bound Barber had a franchise-record 234 yards rushing and three touchdowns against Washington last week.

"We fight hard, no matter what's going on," Barber said. "Sometimes it doesn't play out that way because we make mistakes and get discouraged. I think we play hard and that's the most important thing."

Barber has tormented the Eagles in the past. But his string of five straight 100-yard games against Philadelphia ended in the first meeting this season. He had 51 yards on 21 carries in Week 2 and 75 yards on 19 carries Dec. 17.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is concerned Barber could be due for a breakout performance against a unit that gave up more than 200 yards rushing four times in a six-week span earlier this season.

"He's capable of breaking one any time," Johnson said. "That's what our guys have to emphasize all week. He's going to run the football, and we've got to make sure there are no big plays out of him."

Garcia fitting in nicely
It's only fitting there's a Rocky statue in this city since Jeff Garcia epitomizes the underdog character Sylvester Stallone played in the movie series. "It's always been a battle for me to turn critics into believers," said Garcia, who is 5-1 as the Eagles' starting quarterback since McNabb was lost for the season. "But, I enjoy being in that sort of spotlight or enjoy that sort of sense of being the underdog. So, whatever it is that allows me to continue to compete and fuel the fire within me, that's how I use it." Garcia's fiery personality and win-at-all-costs attitude is a perfect fit in a blue-collar city that has always revered gritty, hard-nosed players. "To play with excitement, to play with emotion, that's part of my game, that's part of how I know that I'm in a zone," Garcia said . . . Giants center Shaun O'Hara can spend hours watching videotapes of the Eagles' blitz package, knowing there is going to be something new on game day. It's almost a guarantee. "They will do something one time and if you focus on that one, they'll come up with another one," O'Hara said. "You don't have enough time in a day to go over all the one-time blitzes." The Eagles will see a different look on the Giants' offensive line. David Diehl, who started the first 14 games at left guard, is starting at left tackle for the second straight week. Rich Seubert will take over left guard and make his second start of the season.

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