The Jock

by Tom Weppel

NFL PLAYOFFS
And so here we are, with the AFC and NFC Championships ready to go. Certainly, these are NOT teams we expected to be still playing. The Cardinals, Eagles, and Ravens all went on the road last weekend and won their respective games to advance, while the Steelers were able to take care of their business at home.

NFC
In this game, the Eagles will head to Phoenix, of all places, to play the Cardinals in the NFC Title. These two teams played earlier this season, with Philly winning that one, 48-20.
Not many expected the Cardinals to be playing this game. They almost didn’t sell out their first home playoff game against the Falcons two weeks ago. But they made plays, especially with their Defense, and also with surprising running plays on Offense. Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower have been effective with their running game. It will be interesting to se what they can and will do against the vaunted Eagles Defense. Obviously, the key for the Cardinals, though, is their passing game, led by veteran QB Kurt Warner, and Pro Bowl WR’s Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Boldin has a bad hammy, so we’ll see how effective he will be. Eagle CB Asante Samuel will be busy on Sunday, for sure.
For the Eagles, the Offense is all about Donovan McNabb. If he can keep things going, getting the ball to his WR corps, and allowing Brian Westbrook to pull off some good runs, then they can and will score points.
The Cardinals beat the Panthers because they forced turnovers, without question. They will have to do the same to win this one as well. But the Eagles have one very tough Defense. It will be interesting to see if the Cardinals can move the ball and score. While Arizona has the home field, I like Philly to advance to Tampa. We’ll see…

AFC
In the second contest, we’ll see those nasty Baltimore Ravens go into Pittsburgh to face those even nastier Steelers.
I’m not a cliche’ guy, but I gotta tell you that these two squads absolutely DO NOT like each other! They are Division rivals. This season, the Steelers won both games, but only by a combined seven points. Both games were low-scoring, tough battles. I’d be shocked if this one was any different.
Pittsburgh and Baltimore have the two toughest Defenses in the National Football League. That is a major reason why they are both playing in this game. Baltimore’s ‘D’ is led by LB’s Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, and S Ed Reed. These guys are hitters. They don’t mess around at all. They create turnovers and are opportunistic.
Of course, Pittsburgh has a lineup of studs as well. From LB’s James Harrison and LeMarr Woodley, to DB Troy Polamalu, these guys have done a great job creating pressure on opposing QB’s, shutting down running games, and creating havoc.
For Baltimore, QB Joe Flacco has operated unlike a rookie, without question. Flacco has done a great job managing the Offense, throwing the ball to a good set or receivers, led by WR Derrick Mason, and the running game has been solid.
Of course, we all know and have witnessed the Steelers Offense do good things. The return of RB Willie Parker has been great. Ben Roethlisberger is doing good things when it comes to throwing to WR Hines Ward, TE Heath Miller, and others.
To me, this game is gonna come down to Special Teams, turnovers, and who will make the one big play to change the game, quite possibly in the 4th Quarter. While I know its damn tough for one NFL team to beat another NFL team three times in one season (even though I know the Titans did it to the Jags back in ’99), I’ll go with the Steelers in this one, based on home field and the playmakers on their roster.
And with that said, you would be looking at a Pennsylvania Super Bowl in Tampa next weekend!

About FOLIO

april, 2022

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