Friday, January 16, 2009

NFL Championship Weekend Preview- TPC Style

Every year we have different "themes" heading into Championship Weekend. Last year we had the "Perfect Season Quest" and the "Does Favre have one more bit of magic left" Championship Games. 2007 brought us the classic Manning vs. Brady, "mano a mano" game and the magical Saints, trying to rejuvenate a city in the face of disaster game vs. Da Bears. This season we have two very interesting themes. In the NFC we have the quest for Greatness. McNabb trying to get into the class picture of all time great QB's with a Super Bowl win (not to mention shake the tag of "Best Player to Never win a Major" and "choker" all at the same time) and another improbable ride to Glory for Kurt Warner, who is trying to enter THE elite circle of Quarterback Greatness.
The AFC features the other side of the ball as the two best and most physical defenses try to punish other to submission while being led by two of the younger up and coming Superstar QB's. Let's go to the war room.........

NFC Championship

TPC has talked ad nausea about the greatness and under appreciation of Kurt Warner. Let's now focus about his counterpart, Donovan McNabb. For all of McNabb's regular season success, he has not fared as well in the playoffs and has traditionally had awful games in big spots. However, statistically, his regular season success compares favorably with many recent Hall of Famers and better than a few others (notably Aikman). However, the fact of the matter is, great QB's are judged by their rings as much as their stats and that's why Aikman is considered an all time great and guys like Fouts are rarely mentioned in that conversation. McNabb is the proverbial "best player to have never won a major" since Peyton got his two years ago. Much like his golfing counterpart, Sergio Garcia, a lot of the blame goes to him. Sure, he has carried the Eagles on his back to their now 5th Conference Championship game, but in his 3 losses in those games he has 1-5 TD-INT ratio, going a combined 54-101 for 514 yards, a 54% completion % and a an awful 51. YPA. In other words, he wasn't invoking many memories of Joe Montana and Bart Starr. The one Super Bowl he did play in, he threw 3 INT's had a 74 QB rating and a 1 Major Field Throw Up on National TV. Not your exact image of the "Ice Water in your Veins" type QB. He will be facing history, his own legacy and a newly inspired defense that has forced opposing QB's into a combined 7 INT's in two games. Not a good sign for the Eagles. Westbrook, their real X-Factor has not looked the same in recent weeks. Add to that, the Eagles use the blitz more than any NFL squad (actually second most) and they are facing a QB who LOVES going against the blitz (6th best in the NFL). You have a banged up secondary against the best WR in football (Fitzgerald), and possibly the 2nd best if healthy (Boldin) with a re found running game in a pretty well rested Edgerrin James. This a good matchup for the Cards. They have a hot QB, a rejuvenared defense and a running game, all three of which they didnt have in their earlier brow beating given to them by the Eagles.
I liked them last week, I like them this week.

Final Score: Cards 31 Eagles 21

AFC Championship

The Steelers are an interesting squad. They play a power football game, but without the power football tools- at least on the offensive side of the ball. The Steelers defensively are as good and punishing as any in the NFL including their counterpart this week. However, offensively, despite their recent success, are prone to an attacking aggressive type defense. Basically, the Steelers offense gets handled pretty easily by the better defenses. They were beaten pretty soundly against Tennessee, Philly and the Giants, and they had a very tough time offensively in their 2 wins vs. Baltimore. Big Ben has been physically beaten this year, being sacked 46 times plus getting hit hard countless others. The Steelers running game has been non existent this season averaging 3.7 yards per carry.
For all that, Baltimore does even less offensively. They always beat who they should and never beat who they shouldn't (except last week, when Tennessee handed them the game even though they clearly outplayed them). Pittsburgh beat them twice, Tennessee beat them twice and they lost to the Giants and Colts. They feast on mediocre offenses (as evidenced two weeks ago in the Dolphin destruction) and do everything offensively BUT let Flacco beat them. Yes, he has played well in spots, but he's not winning the games for them. It's their defense, which is playing extremely well and Flacco doing enough, not to lose the games for them.
So, as always when you have two similar teams, both with great defenses, you take the "who do you want to have the ball with two minutes left in a 10-10 game" factor, which at least this season favors Big Ben.
As much as I hate to go with the same picks as The Sports Guy and his horrific track record, The People's Champ says:

Pittsburgh 17 Baltimore 7


Anonymous said...

Jimmy Johnson will not Blitz against the Arizona, he is not stupid. The game will then come down to The WR's beating the secondary, they will easily.

Anonymous said...

Told you.

He blitzed about half as often as usual. The Arizona WR's killed the secondary.