The Eagles will need running back

Brian Westbrook

to be at peak form if they are to pull off the win they desperately need against the Giants on Sunday, and it appears that's what they're going to get.

Bothered much of the season by a sprained ankle, later by fractured ribs, and frequently by a chronic knee problem that often prevents him from practicing, Westbrook said yesterday he feels like he did at the start of the season, largely because the Eagles had three days off following their Thanksgiving night win over Arizona.

"No question, that three days of rest is big," Westbrook said yesterday. "Especially for a guy who has been injured like I have. Let your knee and ankle rest a little bit. It's been very important for me.

"Since the beginning of the year, since I started to get injured, this probably is the best I've felt."

For the first time in weeks, Westbrook showed the speed and agility that's made him one of the game's most complete backs when he ran for 110 yards and scored four touchdowns, two running and two on catches, against the Cardinals. He was named the NFC offensive player of the week.

In the Giants' 36-31 win over the Eagles on Nov. 9, Westbrook was held to 26 yards on 13 carries. Following that game, the Giants said defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo told them to keep 22 eyes on Westbrook at all times. New York defensive end Justin Tuck reiterated yesterday that stopping Westbrook is the key to stopping the Eagles' offense.

"Everybody wants to talk about [Donovan] McNabb and McNabb is a great quarterback and all, but everything their offense does starts with No. 36," Tuck said. "So he's definitely our focus. He does so many things good."

No Plaxico, but . . .

Brian Dawkins

said the Giants' loss of star receiver

Plaxico Burress

is of little comfort to the Eagles because New York's offense is still built around their running game, which is No. 1 in the NFL.

"Plax definitely brought a weapon to that offense that is unique in his ability to create matchup problems, sometimes," Dawkins said. "But the bottom line is that offensive line has been together forever. They know what they're going to run. They're very good at what they run, the backs know how the offensive line blocks."

The Giants ran for 219 yards in their win over the Eagles last month.

"Obviously, you are going to take that personally," Dawkins said. "We saw mistakes that we made, mentally, that assisted in the big gainers they had. We believe we're capable of doing a much better job."

A promotion

Tackle

Chris Patrick

was signed from the practice squad to fill the roster spot opened when guard

Max Jean-Gilles

, who suffered a broken right fibula against Arizona, was placed on the injured-reserve list.

"It's definitely encouraging to know that a lot of hard work has paid off," the 6-foot-4, 280-pound Patrick said. "I've just got to keep working hard, listen to the coaches, and watch the veterans in front of me and learn. I don't care if you're on the practice squad or you're active, you've still got to prepare the same way."

Patrick, who played at Nebraska, originally signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2007 and spent this preseason with Detroit and San Francisco.

The Eagles replaced Patrick on the practice squad by signing Tala Esera, a 6-3, 315-pound guard. Esera spent last season on the Dolphins' practice squad.

Scary moment

Eagles cornerback

Asante Samuel

said yesterday his entire upper body went numb when he suffered a neck stinger during the game against the Ravens two weeks ago.

Samuel sat out the game against Arizona but is practicing this week and should be ready for the Giants. Samuel said he had two stingers in the Baltimore game.

"Yeah, it's real scary," he said. "The second time it was like my whole upper body just went numb and my head went to the ground. It was a scary moment. The first time it was just my arm that went numb. I feel the pain in the nerves has slowed down so I think I should be all right."

Samuel, who said he'll wear new pads for protection, expressed confidence the Eagles will win Sunday.

"They're a good team, but we're gonna go out there and show them we're a better team," he said.

Injury report

Backup running back

Correll Buckhalter

sat out practice with a sprained medial collateral ligament. "He has run the last couple of days; however, he's not ready to go at this time,"

Andy Reid

said.

Buckhalter sat out the game against Arizona.

Shawn Andrews was the only other Eagle who didn't practice. The guard is rehabilitating his back after having back surgery Oct. 21. It doesn't appear he'll return this season.

- Ray Parrillo