NFC Championship Game:
I refuse to jump on the Cardinals bandwagon. They were great early on, then stumbled drunkenly into the playoffs, and have mystically regained their form. Their first game was against Atlanta, and while most people (myself included) predicted the Falcons would win, it wasn't an upset of epic proportions. They saved that feat for last week, when they beat—nay, pummeled—the Carolina Panthers.
So can they do it again? Well, they can. Their defense has figured it out, Kurt Warner is a beast, Larry Fitzgerald is unstoppable, and if Anquan Boldin returns, the Eagles will have their hands full. Keep in mind that their offense wasn't all that great against the Giants, and they were lucky enough to face an awful passing game. No such luxury against Arizona.
But the Eagles are a better team. Sure, they're the six seed, but fourth-seeded Arizona did have the worst record of all NFC playoff teams (well, the Eagles were only half a game better, but still). The real difference, though, is that the Eagles have weapons on both offense and defense, while Arizona's game is pretty one-dimensional. I know they've played superb D the past two games, but I don't expect it to last.
A lot of people are calling the upset here. The Cards utterly destroyed an excellent team last week, and their story is making them very popular. But I picked the Eagles to be in the Super Bowl from the outset, and that's not changing. They have a great D, a great kyubie, and an elite running back.
I'm not saying it's impossible for Arizona to do it again—far from it. But as great a story as it would be, I don't see it happening. Or, should I say, it's not in the cards. Ickay Turgel! This game goes to the Eagles, and the final score will be:
Eagles 27, Cardinals 21.
AFC Championship Game:
In the AFC, I had the Colts going to the Super Bowl, and that's clearly not the case. Instead, the AFC title game will feature the league's top two defenses: Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
Baltimore has looked solid all season and in the playoffs, and toppled the top-seeded Titans last week. The Steelers, meanwhile, took care of bidness, knocking off the Chargers, who had the worst record of any playoff team at 8-8.
Now, if we do a little math here, we see that the Steelers are greater than the Chargers, but we knew that already. But the Ravens are greater than the Titans, and in week 16, we saw that the Titans are greater than the Steelers. Hence, Ravens > Steelers. Right?
Well it's obviously not that simple. The Titans beat themselves last week, and it had a lot to do with the injury to Chris Johnson. The rookie was running all over the Ravens until he sat out the second half, forcing the Titans into more of a passing team.
They marched down to the red zone multiple times, but turned it over thrice. The passing of Kerry Collins and running of LenDale White was actually effective to an extent, but just not enough.
The Steelers are a better offensive team than the Titans. They'll be able to break through and finish those drives. I don't expect a repeat of last week's self-implosion by Tennessee, and I do expect Pittsburgh to win this game.
Also, the Steelers have the number one rush defense in the league, and the Ravens' best offensive weapon is Le'Ron McClain. Figure it out yourself. The final score in this defensive battle will be:
Steelers 20, Ravens 13.
The Steelers deserve to lose, though, because Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravnstahl changed his name to Steelerstahl. It's a cute idea in theory, but idiotic to actually do, and well, he did it. Fun fact: Stahl is actually German for Steel. Or at least that's what Deadspin told me.