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NFL Gameday Predictions: Conference Championships Edition

John StepnickCorrespondent IJanuary 18, 2009

3:00 EST
FOX

In one of the dumbest scheduling moves by the NFL in recent history, the Eagles and Cardinals take the field in the first of two championship games at precisely 3:00 EST, or noon Arizona time.
The NFL should leave the game times a flex options so that a team like Arizona wouldn't have to play a championship game at noon when there is another game in Pittsburgh that is starting three hours later.
Hobbled headliners Brian Westbrook of Philadelphia and Anquan Boldin of Arizona are both expected to play, though their effectiveness will be in question. The story of this game will be the ability of quarterbacks to overcome the opposing defense.
Philly's blitz-happy scheme will give Arizona's receivers single-coverage down the field, so if Warner has the time and composure to find them, it could be a big day for the Arizona passing attack.
Even though Philly's run defense is stout, it will be important for Arizona to attempt to establish the run early so they do not become one-dimensional. On the other side of the ball, Arizona's defense has been great at forcing turnovers.
Will Donovan McNabb revert to pre-benching form or will he continue his high level of play? The key will be Philadelphia's receivers being able to come up with big catches at big points in the game.
Arizona's run defense has been solid in the playoffs, but Westbrook, when healthy, has game breaking ability.

Ian's Prediction: Eagles 27-23

John's Prediction:


6:30
CBS

This game needs no introduction. The league's top two defenses face off in an all-out bloodbath. These teams know each other very well. Baltimore hasn't had a bye since Week 2. And Pittsburgh looked sharp last week.
Baltimore's key to the game will be their ability to establish run in order to set up the pass. Keeping the game out of Flacco's hands will be key.
Pittsburgh needs to exploit Baltimore's depleted secondary, but not take too many chances that will allow Ed Reed and the Baltimore defense to make game-changing plays.
This game will be all about big plays, turnovers, and converting in the red zone. Whoever can get touchdowns instead of field goals will come out on top.

Ian's Prediction: Steelers 17-9

John's Prediction:

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