The Jock

by Tom Weppel

This weekend we will see the top four teams in the NFL hosting games, all with a good shot at getting to the Championship game next weekend. Amazingly, all four contests will feature teams that played each other during the regular season.
In the AFC, we’ll start with the Titans hosting the Ravens. Baltimore comes off a win over Miami. They are a good, strong, tough outfit. Their Defense certainly continues to play at the highest level. Their Offense has done a pretty good job, also. Rookie QB Joe Flacco has had an outstanding season. Their running game is efficient. They will be a tough group to beat. But the Titans know what it will take to make things happen. They had a great season mainly because they were able to create turnovers and stop opposing offenses from scoring. This will be a defensive battle, without question, with the Titans coming away with a tough win.
Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, the Steelers will host the Chargers. Earlier this season, Pittsburgh beat San Diego by a point in a game with a controversial ending. The Chargers come in finding ways to win games, having NEEDED to win the last six weeks, simply to get in the playoffs. The Chargers have other problems as well. LaDainian Tomlinson is very banged up, leaving the bulk of the work to Daren Sproles. And WR Vincent Jackson is hung with a DUI to deal with as well. That should cause some problems for the Bolts. The Steelers are another group that is rested and ready to play. Their home field is certainly solid. They have a good veteran outfit that can and will be quite tough to defeat for a second time. While San Diego is riding the Cinderella wave, I’ll look at Pittsburgh to come away with the victory.
In Charlotte, the Carolina Panthers will play the Arizona Cardinals, a team they played and beat in Charlotte earlier in the season. The Cardinals obviously live and die by their passing offense. QB Kurt Warner has done a great job running the offense and scoring points. But we also know that running the ball is very important. Last week, the Cardinals showed a little of that, letting RB Edgerrin James do some work. For the Cardinals to beat Carolina, they have to stop the RB combination of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. This combo has done a great job for the Panthers leading the League in rushing TD’s. They also must shut down WR Steve Smith, which in itself is a very tough task.
Also in the NFC, the Giants will host the Eagles in what should be a rough, tough, nasty battle. This grudge match will be in the Meadowlands, as they Eagles take yet one more visit to face the Giants. These two teams obviously know each other quite well, having both beaten the other in their home park. Philadelphia comes in having done a good job last week in Minnesota. But the Giants are rested and ready to roll. The outcome of this one might come down to turnovers, special teams play, or a mistake here or there. Should be interesting…

As long as the boys running NCAA college football continue to operate the most ridiculous scheme in sports to determine a champion, I will continue to believe that the whole thing is a ridiculous joke.
With that said, watching the Oklahoma/Florida game is not really all that entertaining or exciting, knowing that USC or Utah could possibly beat the Gators or Sooners. We will now hear for a while how any one of the top three or four teams should be considered #1. The ONLY way this whole thing can be solved is to have an eight team playoff, leading into a National Championship. But of course that would make too much sense for all those involved in the situation…