NFL Conference Championship Previews and Tony Dungy

Matthew BisharaContributor IJanuary 14, 2009

Conference championship Sunday, my favourite football day of the year. Two high-quality games with the winners playing in the biggest event of the year! Before we get into that, the NFL is losing one of the faces of the league and a classy and remarkable head coach in Tony Dungy.

He is the only coach to produce six straight 12-win seasons and lead his teams to the playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons earning one Super Bowl in the process.

Tony Dungy built two Super Bowl teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who won the Super Bowl in 2002, the year after Dungy was replaced by fiery young coach Jon Gruden.

Dungy wasn’t able to the Bucs over the hump, but he pieced that team together, bringing them from perennial basement dwellers to a perennial playoff contender that they are today.

In Indy, it was a little bit of a different situation; the coach who was known for not being able to win the big one was teamed up with a future hall of fame quarterback who was known for his playoff failure, the Colts already had their offense in place with stars up and down their starting line up.

Dungy was brought in to shore up a defence that had been among the worst in the league, and piece by piece, player by player, through the draft, he was able to put the Colts over the top (Dwight Freeney, Dallas Clark, Bob Sanders, Marlin Jackson, Joseph Addai and Anthony Gonzalez). They won the franchise’s first Super Bowl in 2007.

Tony Dungy is a gentleman, a greatly respected man. He had an uncanny ability to win players admiration and make them truly want to play for him, he will be missed by the NFL and by the Community in Indianapolis.

Being a fan of the Patriots and seeing him so many times in the past six years, I can say he is one of the classiest men that I have ever seen in sports, he won’t be missed by the Patriots that’s for sure!

With home field being a disadvantage so far in the 2009 NFL playoffs, it would not shock me if two wild-card teams face off in the Super Bowl for the first time in its 42 year history.

Thus far in this year’s postseason the home teams possess a record of 3-5, not to mention the defending champion New York Giants and a team that went 8-0 at home during the regular season in the Carolina Panthers both being dismantled at home.

Every year, this thing is a crap shoot, usually it’s whoever is hot coming into the playoffs, will make a run at it.

In 2009, that team is the Philadelphia Eagles, they are a two-man show on offense, they will go as far as Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook will take them, on the other side of the ball they rely on a Jimmy Johnson blitz scheme that has seated the quarterback 49 times this season.

The Cardinals and the Eagles already played each other once before, American thanksgiving night, with Eagles defeating them convincingly, 48-20. This time around I expect the game to be a lot closer but the Eagles to pull away late and take it 35-21.

On Sunday evening, I would recommend putting the kids to bed early for this one, it’s not going to be the faint of heart, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens are two of the toughest and hardest hitting teams in the NFL’s history.

These two smash-mouth AFC North rivals are facing off for the third time this season, the Steelers won the previous two meetings by a combined seven points.

The Ravens are coming off a far more physical battle last week against the top seeded Titans, they are a banged up group. The Steelers had a much easier time against a much weaker opponent and came out of the game pretty much unscathed.

This one is going to be very physical, very emotional, it will come down to the wire just like their previous two meetings I see the Steelers pulling another one out over the beat-up Ravens, 17-10.