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Early Predictions for Championship Weekend

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What else could you ask for? Even if you absolutely hated one or more of the teams playing this weekend, you still had to watch. You had underdogs showing up on the road. You had league-leading defenses lead the way, and league-leading passing offenses show up in bad weather. You had a snowstorm in Pittsburgh, and you had the defending Super Bowl champs on the ropes. Eli Manning, who pushed Kurt Warner out of New York a few years ago (and also won a ring with the Giants), played simply terrible, in part due to the gritty defense of the Eagles. And Kurt Warner, who has been begging and pleading with coaches and general managers for the last 5 years to give him the chance to lead a team to the playoffs is hosting the NFC Championship. Wow.

I watched the whole Titans-Ravens affair. The Titans lost that game. The Ravens defense did their job, and Joe Flacco got just enough first downs to avoid the self-destruction that occurred on the Titan's offensive side of the ball...but the Titans blew it.

As for the game in the snow at Pittsburgh, that punt return by Santonio Holmes restored a belief in the stands that they could win. The early touchdown by Philip Rivers and Vincent Jackson was, to me, as shocking as it was masterfully executed. You are not supposed to be able to do that against Pittsburgh's defense...in the snow...right off the bat. The reason they won though was their commitment to the run. Feeding Willie Parker to the tune of around 150 yards is exactly the reason why:

I'm picking Pittsburgh over Baltimore in next week's AFC Championship. It is hard to beat a team three times in a single season. It is hard to beat a defense like Baltimore's coming off a crazy controversial call like the one in the last meeting between the two. But at home, under Mike Tomlin, and behind that defense, the Steelers will get back to the big dance. No real need to mention Big Ben--he'll minimize the big mistakes. Look for Flacco to make his first game-deciding miscue of the post-season.

Arizona will be hosting the team that I believe is playing the best ball of all the remaining teams. Sure, they tied the Bengals. Sure, they lost a game to the Skins they really had to have. But Philadelphia has Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, and Andy Reid leading an offense that, when clicking, is as dangerous as any. They have what at the start of the playoffs was the league's 3rd ranked defense. With all due respect to the Cardinals and Kurt Warner, the Eagles will roll to the Super Bowl.

An all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl...the best and worst of what PA has to offer. Let the evacuation of Tampa bay begin.