AFC and NFC Championships to Take Place Week 16?

Russell FikeCorrespondent IDecember 19, 2008

I didn't get the memo, but did the playoffs start two weeks ago?  Where did the wild card and divisional rounds go?

Week 15 provides us what are labeled by many to be likely previews of both the AFC and NFC championship games.  Let's not downplay the potential of an Indianapolis Colts run to the Super Bowl as Peyton performs a strong imitation of his little brother's crusade of last year, but week 15's top games put teams in the top five of everyone's power ranking against one another.


Steelers vs. Titans

With Kerry Collins having a Buddhist-like reincarnation in the NFL filling in for and dethroning the emotionally troubled Vince Young at quarterback, the Titans have found great success with a staunch defense and a lightning-quick rookie running back in Chris Johnson.

Smart corner play, particularly by Cortland Finnegan, and the dominating play of Albert Haynesworth are largely to thank.  The loss of Haynesworth for this game may be a factor and allow Willie Parker a little breathing room.

The Steelers, as usual, have an identity largely synonymous with their days as the Steel Curtain.  The rugged, Big Ben Roethlisberger is a good fit for the personality of the city for which he plays.  Mike Tomlin has done well to keep the team's 3-4 defense.

Despite being on the road, I like the Steelers.  Tomlin not only knows how to win, but also looks great in a pair of aviators.


Panthers vs. Giants

Eli may be in a race with his older brother to see who (if either) wins ring number two.  If Jacobs is healthy through the playoffs, the dominating offensive line of the Giants may certainly help Eli achieve this goal.  However, the Panthers are my pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

The NFL is so physically demanding that a team needs two running backs on its roster.  Larry Johnson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Willie Parker, and now Brandon Jacobs have all succumbed to the injury bug.  The tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart is the new mold for success in the NFL.

Jake Delhomme is dependable, and Steve Smith can change any game in a single play.  He demands too much attention in the secondary and in fact limits the playbook of defenses. 


NFL fans need to be ready for some time travel into the future as we see playoff caliber matchups in December.  Call it an early holiday gift.