Conference championship predictions

January 17th, 2009 - 9:39 am

It’s a good thing I don’t bet, because with my playoff predictions, I’d be out of a lot of cash. After going 2-2 in the wild card round, I went 1-3 last week. We’ve had quite a few upsets and surprises during this year’s playoffs. The fact that there are no No. 1 seeds and only one No. 2 seed alive illustrates that point. Who would have thought we’d see two No. 6s and a No. 4 remaining in the hunt? And the Arizona Cardinals, on top of that? Being that I’ve had trouble picking the winners thus far through the playoffs, don’t be surprised — I wouldn’t — if we see a Cardinals-Ravens Super Bowl, because I’m going with the all-Pennsylvania title game. My ultimate goal, though, is to try to stay under 100 losses for the season.

Here’s a look at this week’s matchups and how I think they’ll play out.

Last Week: 1-3
This Week: 1-1
Overall: 165-99

Philadelphia (11-6-1) at Arizona (11-7)
I’m quite surprised how well the Cardinals have played throughout the playoffs thus far and it’s shocking that they’re just one game away from the Super Bowl. They surely possess a dominant passing game, but it’s their run game and their defense that have stepped up as of late to propel them to this game. The Eagles have been one of, if not the best NFC team in the past two months. In fact, it was the Thanksgiving Day game against these very same Cardinals that “righted the ship”, so to speak. It’s not so much how the Eagles’ defense plays against the Cardinals’ offense, it’s how the Philly’s offense does against Arizona’s defense that will probably determine this game. I think the Eagles have players who are more used to be in this situation and I think the game will hinge on a few costly turnovers for Arizona.
Prediction: Philadelphia 23, Arizona 20
Actual Score: Arizona 32, Philadelphia 25

Baltimore (13-5) at Pittsburgh (13-4)
The Ravens scare me. It’s not as though their offense is overly powerful, but the rookie, Joe Flacco, has played well enough and has not made any costly mistakes that have cost his team any games. We know their defense is solid; they always have been. But this team will go only as far as Flacco’s game allows them to go. The Steelers have — statistically — an even better defense, but not by much. Ironically, it was young Ben Roethlisberger that helped guide the Steelers to their Super Bowl XL championship and, like Flacco, the Steelers’ success will hinge on how Big Ben performs. If he plays like he did in the Steelers’ Week 15, 13-9 victory over these Ravens, when he threw for 246 yards and a score, then Pittsburgh will be in good shape. However, if he plays as he did in their Sept. 29, 23-20 victory, when he threw for only 191 yards and an interception. You’ve heard it before: it’s very difficult to beat a team three times in one season, which is why I’m wary of making this pick, but I think the Steelers’ No. 1 defense gets after Flacco and the Ravens’ offense.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 20, Baltimore 17
Actual Score: Pittsburgh 23, Baltimore 14

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