Conference Championship Sunday Is Here!

NC NighthawkAnalyst IJanuary 18, 2009

Are you ready for some championship football?

The state of Pennsylvania has two teams in the conference championship games. Arizona is hosting the NFC title game.

Guess what?  No No. 1 seeds won a playoff game. Of the top two in the playoffs, only the Steelers advanced.

No Tom Brady.  No Peyton Manning. No Eli Manning. And no LaDainian Tomlinson. Well, that’s not new! I find it most interesting that Brian Westbrook can play injured and play well, but L.T. can’t perform when he hurts.

It is simply shocking that the Arizona Cardinals are one win away from their first Super Bowl appearance. Kurt Warner has worked miracles to get this far. Cardinals have great wide receivers.  So do the Detroit Lions, who annually draft a WR early.

Is this the year that Donovan McNabb unloads his “choke” label and wins a Super Bowl? Wouldn’t winning a Super Bowl propel McNabb into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Warner and Ben Roethlisberger need wins today to seek their second Super Bowl victory.  The Baltimore Ravens (former Cleveland Browns) franchise is seeking their second as well.

There is ideal warm weather outside and inside the dome in Arizona. The bitter cold and snowy weather in Pittsburgh is ideal for Steelers and Ravens fans.

Let’s play the games!

How limiting is Westbrook's swollen left knee? The Eagles have to take advantage of the matchup problem Westbrook poses. It is difficult to create man coverage that allows two players to bracket him, so he becomes an issue with the ability to catch short passes and go the distance.

If teams resort to zone defenses, McNabb can pick them apart.  When Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter are in the same backfield, both can make plays rushing or receiving.

Warner and the Cardinals will generate a lot of offense. Many think Arizona's playoff inexperience might put them at a disadvantage, but their main man, Warner, has won a Super Bowl.

Will Arizona's defense be able to neutralize Westbrook?  The defense also has to contain McNabb, who's a lot more mobile than Atlanta's Matt Ryan or Carolina's Jake Delhomme.

Cam Cameron, Baltimore's offensive coordinator, can be very creative but understandably he has played it safe with Joe Flacco, allowing the Ravens to do what they always do: win with their defense.

On the other hand, having been swept by Pittsburgh during the regular season, Baltimore might need to take some risks on offense. The best receiver in Baltimore's offense is tight end Todd Heap and the Ravens have to get him involved throughout the game.

It is time to put a little more (but not too much) on the shoulders of Flacco—at the right, opportune moments in this game.

One thing the Ravens know about Roethlisberger is that he is a less productive player when he is forced to throw from the pocket.

Pittsburgh needs to have solid pass protection and avoid turnovers. The key for the Steelers will be to limit sacks and turnovers while getting and keeping the running game going.

Pittsburgh's defense matches up well against the Ravens’ offense, which seldom takes risks and relies on their defense to win.

Who will win?

In Arizona, I am looking for a high-scoring show on turf and in warm temperatures. Will we have an all-bird Super Bowl?  Maybe.  Philadelphia 30, Arizona 24.

In Pittsburgh, I look forward to a lot of hard hitting and a lot of fun. This game separates the men from, well, the other men. With a 6:30 EST kickoff, temperatures will be in the  20's and dropping quickly to the teens. There's also a possibility of snow showers. 

Will a starting rookie quarterback finally make it to the Super Bowl? No.  Will we have an all Pennsylvania Super Bowl?  Yes.  Pittsburgh 16, Baltimore 13.


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