PHILADELPHIA - The Eagles will feel right at home at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday night.
They used to feel wrong.
They will ride a four-game winning streak at the Linc into their wild-card playoff game against New Orleans. That's a welcome turnaround for the players and fans from the way they started the season. The Eagles dropped their first four home games en route to setting a franchise record with 10 straight home losses dating to last season.
"The atmosphere is going to be great on Saturday," linebacker Trent Cole said. "When big things are happening with Philly sports, it's the best. There's so much excitement around the city, and fans really get into it. I'm sure it's going to be that way on Saturday. We've got a special team."
It took a while for the fans to experience the excitement.
After opening the season with a victory at Washington, the Eagles suffered back-to-back losses to San Diego (33-30) and Kansas City (26-16) at the Linc on Sept. 15 and 19. The defeat to the Chiefs was especially galling, considering Andy Reid, who had coached Philadelphia for the previous 14 seasons, is Kansas City's coach.
They returned home after a three-game road trip and promptly struggled again with losses to Dallas (17-3) and the New York Giants (15-7), despite unwavering support from the fans.
The Eagles finally rewarded their supporters by beating Washington (24-16) on Nov. 17 at the Linc and followed with wins over Arizona (24-21), Detroit (34-20) and Chicago (54-11). Fans had difficulty seeing the win over the Lions, due to an unexpected snowstorm that dumped eight inches onto the turf and the stands.
"The fans have been great at the Linc," coach Chip Kelly said. "Just listening to the 'We want Dallas!' chants in the Chicago game or just how loud they were in the Detroit game in the snow. And there were a couple of times that I don't think we could see the crowd because of how hard it was snowing down there."
The Eagles (10-6) will try to end another slump Saturday. They have not won a home playoff game in seven years, since they beat the Giants 23-20 in the wild-card round on Jan. 7, 2007. In their last playoff appearance at the Linc, they lost 21-16 to Green Bay in a wild-card game on Jan. 9, 2011.
The conditions should favor the Eagles Saturday since the temperature is expected to dip below 20 degrees during the game. The Saints (11-5), who play their home games in the Superdome, have never won a road conference playoff game in their history and lost four of their last five road games this season.
"We've got new travel warmup suits," Saints coach Sean Payton said Wednesday in a phone interview. "They're really warmer and they actually look a little nicer, too, so we ditched the old ones. We've also changed the color of the Gatorade and the snacks we eat on the road the night before. Those are big changes that will help with the wind."
Virtually all of the Saints have experience playing in uncomfortable conditions, whether it be a cold rain in Seattle or bone-chilling wind in Chicago in the NFL or cold-weather college games.
Quarterback Drew Brees (Purdue University), running back Darren Sproles (Kansas State) and running back Pierre Thomas (Illinois) know what it's like to throw or catch passes in cold and snow.
"We can't practice in it this week because it's in the 60s here now," Brees said Wednesday in a phone interview from New Orleans. "But we've all played in that kind of weather before. You always try to take the elements into consideration, whether it's wind, rain, snow or whatever. But football is still about knowing your assignments and executing them.
"We haven't played well on the road lately, but we don't have any excuses. We just didn't play well. But here we are in the playoffs, and there are no more redos. This is it."
Similarly, the Eagles make no excuses for their early-season struggles at the Linc.
They fixed whatever was wrong and are now focused on trying to win a playoff game for the first time since the 2008 season.
"Everyone was talking about how we couldn't win at home earlier, but that's in the past," running back LeSean McCoy said. "We're winning at home now. We realize it's hard to get (to the playoffs) and it's hard to stay. But the crowd's behind us and we're rolling.
"And we're not satisfied just to be here. We're made for the playoffs. People may be surprised at what we've done this season, but we should be here and we expect to win."
Extra points: backup center Julian Vandervelde (back spasms) and safety Earl Wolff (sprained knee) did not practice Wednesday, but Wolff sounded optimistic afterward that he would be able to play against the Saints.
Contact David Weinberg: