Friday, January 16, 2009

Tampa is Calling: NFL Championship Round Predictions

I know I've said this before, but, what a long, strange football season it has been. First, everyone's favorite, the Patriots, are basically eliminated in the first week of the season when their quarterback goes down. Then, teams like the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins come from nowhere and make the playoffs. On top of that, the favorites who battle all season to earn home field advantage, the Giants and Titans, are eliminated by teams that just squeaked into the playoffs. This all sets up an intriguing set of Championship games between teams that were certainly not on anyone's radar as potential Super Bowl contenders, except for the Steelers.

Here are my predictions for who will make it to Tampa Bay. As always, picks don't take the spread into consideration.

Last Week: 2-2, .500
Playoff Overall: 5-3, .625

Sunday Games:

NFC Championship:
Eagles @ Cardinals, 3 pm
Is there any doubt as to who I am going with in this one? I went against the Eagles last week and I couldn't be more happy about being wrong; perhaps I should pick against the Eagles again just so I don't jinx them. I don't believe in jinxes, so I will go ahead and make my pick, it's not like something I pick will affect the outcome of a game. The Eagles will win this game because they are the better team. Despite the way they have been shutting down some of the top running backs in the league, the Cardinals defense is nowhere near as good as the Eagles defense. The Eagles offense, although not as explosive, is better all-around and has a better quarterback running the show. This game won't be much like the Thanksgiving Day massacre, but the Eagles should have a comfortable lead throughout. Their defense is going to carry them right into the Super Bowl, the Cardinals offense doesn't have enough weapons to really be a threat against Jim Johnson and his blitzing schemes. The Eagles will dare the Cardinals to try to run the ball in the early downs and then blitz the heck out of Kurt Warner on 3rd down. Offensively, the Eagles will once again show a commitment to the run early in the game to keep the Cardinals honest and then open things up later in the game and shred the Arizona secondary. The Cardinals had a great run but it ends this week as they lose by 10 points to the better birds, the Eagles. My pick: Eagles

AFC Championship:
Ravens @ Steelers, 6:30 pm
Hopefully you get your fix of offense in the NFC Championship Game because there won't be any in this one. This will be old fashioned football at its finest, with every play a battle and every yard a struggle. These are the best two defenses in the NFL and I don't think there is a close third. The biggest difference in this game has to be on the offensive side of the ball where the Steelers have an advantage. Who would you rather have as your quarterback in this game, a rookie who has never been there before or Ben Roethlisberger, who has won a Super Bowl? Which running back would you rather have, Willie Parker or whichever runner the Ravens go with between Willis McGahee or Le'Ron McClain? Which receiving core scares you more, Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward or Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton? The Steelers offensive line is still pretty porous, which is a dangerous thing considering the Ravens will look to exploit it on every play, but as long as Big Ben is still standing at the end, the Steelers will be going to the Super Bowl. My pick: Steelers

Of course, if those picks do prove to be correct, that will set up an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl. What a game that will be!

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