Friday, January 16, 2009

NFL Championship Weekend preview and prognostications

The classic Sam Spence music is playing in my head right now just thinking about Championship Weekend. Monday morning, we'll know which two teams are headed to Super Bowl XLIII, looking to capture the Lombardi trophy previously held by the New York Giants.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Arizona Cardinals - Sunday, 3:00pm ET, FOX
The Eagles are everybody's darling right now, having won three straight against Dallas, Minnesota and New York, but the Cardinals have also won three consecutive tilts. They pounded the Panthers last weekend and shut down the Carolina offense.

The Eagles picked apart the Giants' defense to get to the title game, but the Arizona defense has been much improved throughout these two playoff games. They shut down two runners in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart last week. Brian Westbrook is a whole different creature because of his pass-catching ability, but the Cardinals should be able to use a similar scheme to attack the Philly offensive line.

Offensively, the Cardinals have an ace in the hole named Larry Fitzgerald. Going into last weekend's game, the plan was simple for the Panthers. Double-team Fitz and let Edgerrin James beat you. But you need triple coverage to stop Fitzgerald, apparently, as he was jumping over guys and fighting for the ball on every pass attempt, tearing apart the Carolina secondary.

I think Arizona's offense will be able to find holes in Philly's blitz-heavy defense, just as the Eagles did to the Giants last weekend. If the Cardinals can play as well as they did against Carolina, they'll take this one at home, where they are 7-2 this year.
Prognostication: Cardinals 31, Eagles 26

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers - Sunday, 6:30pm ET, CBS
The Ravens have one of those defenses that beats you up for your lunch money and leaves you crying and sleeping in the fetal position at night. They're just nasty. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has a defense that dunks your head in the toilet and then kicks you in the ass when you think it's over. It's almost as bad.

This one is going to be a defensive slugfest with occasional flares of offense. And if it is just a battle of "D's," Baltimore will most likely come out on top. Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu are arguably two of the best defensive backs in the game, so that's a wash. But the Ravens have that one wildcard, Ray Lewis. He finds a way to come through in the clutch, like he found a way out of a murder rap.
Prognostication: Ravens 13, Steelers 10

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