By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
BASN’s NFL Picks: Conference Championships
NEW HAVEN, Ct. — The road to the Super Bowl XLIII has now reached the home stretch. The final four remaining teams have reached this stop in very different ways.
In the NFC, the Cinderella Cardinals find themselves hosting their second playoff game of the postseason. Their opponent, the Eagles, are still riding an incredible wave since their Thanksgiving Day thrashing of that same crew from Arizona.
With a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, look for a much closer contest.
As for the AFC, the Ravens are hoping that the third time’s a charm as they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. Baltimore lost twice to the Black and Gold during the regular season.
One loss was in overtime on a Monday night. The other came on a controversial touchdown late in the game. Watching these two teams battle is a reminder of the wars between the old Houston Oilers and Steelers battle it out for AFC supremacy back in the late 70′s and early 80′s.
Let the games begin.
FACTOID OF THE WEEK
This Sunday when the Arizona Cardinals play host to the Philadelphia Eagles at University of Phoenix Stadium , it will mark only the second time in history that a stadium will host a conference championship game the year after hosting a Super Bowl. Last season, the New York Giants played the New England Patriots at University of Phoenix Stadium in Super Bowl XLII. The other time a stadium has held two such games in successive seasons was in 1970-1971, when the Miami Dolphins hosted the Baltimore Colts in the AFC Championship Game at Miami ‘s Orange Bowl the season after the Colts played the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V at the same venue.
Sunday, Kurt Warner becomes the seventh QB in NFL history to start a conference championship game for two different teams. Which one of these quarterbacks didn’t turn the feat?
A. Doug Williams B. Craig Morton C. Joe Montana D. Jim Plunkett
(The answer comes at the end of this column.)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 (3-6 this postseason)
We took a hunch on the Cardinals and the Birdies came through for us. We also had the Black and Gold, but we got burned by Big Blue and the Titans. Note to Tennessee: Red zone fumbles will kill ya every time. Like Lloyd Bridges in “Airplane”, they picked a bad week to get slippery hands within the 20′s.
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Eagles at Cardinals
The two most improbable teams in the NFC are set to meet Sunday with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. It features a match up of two quarterbacks who’ve been to the big dance before going up against two rock solid defenses. While Baltimore and Pittsburgh have been getting the defensive juggernaut hype, this year’s postseason has proved that you can’t sleep on either of the NFC finalists as well. To me, the difference will who can establish and maintain the running game. While Edgerrin James has been just the shot in the arm that Arizona’s offense has lacked, I think Philly’s D will be able to neutralize him. I rode the Cardinals to a upset last week, but I think the party ends on Sunday.
Did You Know: Although the Eagles and Cardinals have met 103 times over the past 60 years, this will be their first playoff meeting since December 19, 1948 in the NFL Championship Game. In that match up, the Eagles defeated the Chicago Cardinals 7-0 on a five-yard run by Hall of Fame halfback Steve Van Buren early in the fourth quarter. The 60-year gap between playoff meetings is the longest in history between two teams.
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Ravens at Steelers
If you pin me down, I really think the Steelers’ D as a whole is better than Baltimore’s. This isn’t a slap at the Ravens’ Hall of Fame tandem of Ed Reed and the incomparable Ray Lewis, but as a unit I give the Black and Gold a slight edge. So much so that I think they’ll be the difference in this game. Joe Flacco is no longer a rookie in the broad sense, but I really think the enormity of this game will start to hit him in the third quarter when Pittsburgh’s D really turns it up a notch. I know it’s tough to beat a division foe three times in a year, but I think Tomlin’s crew is up for the challenge.
Did You Know: Sunday’s game also marks the 11th time division rivals have squared off in the AFC Championship game, including the third involving the Steelers. Pittsburgh defeated the Houston Oilers in 1978 and 1979.
Jim Plunkett reached two conference championship games, but both times he played with the Los Angeles Raiders. He previously played with the Patriots and 49ers.