Here is my quick take on how the two conference title games will play out today.
NFC Championship (Philadelphia at Arizona): Philadelphia has become a better team since RB Brian Westbrook came back from his injury. QB Donovan McNabb has been excellent in the playoffs so far, and the Eagles defense will blitz on any down and distance. Arizona suddenly discovered a run defense it did not have during the regular season, and QB Kurt Warner is one of the best against the blitz. The Cardinals stop Westbrook and force the Eagles into a shootout. Prediction: Arizona 27, Philadelphia 24.
AFC Championship (Baltimore at Pittsburgh): All of the reasons the Ravens won’t win in Pittsburgh (too banged up, too many weeks playing in a row, can’t solve the Steelers’ offense) have all been laid on the table by the national media. Why the Ravens will win today? Because the defense slows down RB Willie Parker and forces QB Ben Roethlisberger out of the pocket and into mistakes when Pittsburgh has the ball. The less you hear Hines Ward’s name called, the better the Ravens’ chances. The Baltimore run game has to get big chunks early to keep the offense out of third-and-long situations. Has Joe Flacco seen enough of what the Steelers did to him in the first two matchups to figure out the coverages? This will be a game very similar to last week against Tennessee, and I see the same score. Prediction: Baltimore 13, Pittsburgh 10.
Last week’s record: 3-1. Total for the playoffs: 5-3.