2008 NFL Championship Weekend

Last Updated: January 12th, 2009 by Travis Edwards (Bankroll Sports Contributor)

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The Division Playoff Round is out of the picture along with yet another exciting and crazy weekend of football leaving us with NFL’s version of the final four. Championship weekend is among us as we have a pair of games to determine both the NFC and AFC Titles and more importantly decide who will be playing in this year’s Super Bowl. Amazingly the NFC will be hosted by the #5 and #6 seeded teams in the Title game for the first time in history when the Arizona Cardinals host the Philadelphia Eagles. The AFC match-up will be a colossal rematch between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens dominated the majority of the game earlier this year, but Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a game winning drive late in the 4th quarter to steal the victory. Take a look at what to watch for during Championship weekend.

NFC Championship

Philadelphia Eagles (11-6-1) at Arizona Cardinals (11-7)

The Arizona Cardinals have been the biggest surprise this postseason. The Cardinals started off the year strong, but were nearly written off for dead losing their last 4 of 6 games of the regular season. However, the Cardinals would find the spark that would need to ignite their electrifying air assault. The Cardinals blew out the Carolina Panthers last week 33-13 a team that many people thought were the best in the NFC heading into the playoffs Arizona will host their first playoff game this weekend since 1947 and will become the final NFC team to host at least one home playoff game. Kurt Warner has looked solid finding targets Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Boldin missed last week’s game and his status for the NFC Championship game is unknown. Larry Fitzgerald has been spectacular to say the least. Averaging 130 yards per game in the playoffs receiving with a pair of touchdowns, Fitzgerald has been uncontrollable for opposing secondary. The Cardinals will match up well again this week when they lead a high power offense against a brutal Philadelphia defense. The Eagles defense has been superb especially in the trenches. The best way to attack the Philadelphia defense if there is any is to try and pick apart the secondary. Warner and company will attempt to shock the world once again and earn a bid to the Super Bowl when they host the Eagles on Sunday.

Philadelphia has looked scary good during the playoffs and knocked off the defending Super Bowl Champions last week 23-11. The Eagles are flying high since their 5-5-1 start this season equaling 6 victories in their last 7 games. Philadelphia is getting it done on the defensive side of the ball. The Eagles have not allowed over 14 points in 6 straight games and only allowing 10.8 points per contest during that stretch. The Eagles may have surprised many with their victory over the Giants, but I knew if New York did not make some plays through the air that they would be in for a long day. The Eagles have opened up as 3 point favorites over the Cardinals and they will have to withstand a strong passing game that was 2nd best in the NFL this season averaging 292 yards per game. The Eagles let some Giants receivers get open last week, but New York failed to make the big plays. The Eagles secondary will have to be solid this weekend to slow down the Arizona passing game. Philadelphia QB Donovan McNabb has been wonderful since being benched in week 12 for not performing up to par. Since that time, McNabb has averaged 240 passing yards per game with 11 touchdowns and only 4 picks. McNabb has the offense back to performing the way they should have been all year. Michael Westbrook is a big time playmaker that had a big 71 yard screen pass that lifted the Eagles over Minnesota in the first week of the playoffs. Westbrook was not very effective last week, but his presence alone is a big play threat for the Eagles offense. The Eagles made a Super Bowl appearance in 2005. McNabb and Westbrook will look to lead the Eagles back with a win over the Cardinals.

AFC Championship

Baltimore Ravens (13-5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (13-4)

The first meeting between these teams this season was a wonderful defensive football game and the re-match has all the makings to be very similar. In the first meeting, Santonio Holmes caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger with 43 seconds left to get the victory over the Ravens 13-9. The Steelers have been nearly untouchable in the latter part of the year winning 7 of their last 8 games against some of the best teams in the NFL. Pittsburgh had a convincing performance last week when they man-handled the San Diego Chargers 35-24. Pittsburgh has one of the best defenses to ever step on an NFL field. The Steelers rank 1st, 1st, 2nd, and 1st in all 4 major defensive categories. Pittsburgh’s success is based around the performance of the defense because before last week the offense had really not been that good. The Steelers offense only averages 21 points per game along with 312 yards of total offense that both rank in the bottom half of the NFL. However when you have defense as talented as this unit, like the 2000 Baltimore Ravens proved that alone can be enough to win a Super Bowl. The Steelers looked like more of an offensive team last week, but that could be due to a poor San Diego defense as well. Still Pittsburgh is playing very well. Willie Parker leads the way on the ground and had a big performance against the Chargers. When Parker is effective on the ground, the Steelers are nearly impossible to defeat. Parker racked up 146 yards and 2 touchdowns last week and will get a load of carries this weekend for certain. Pittsburgh has yet to lose a game this season when Parker rushes for at least 50 yards or more. The Steelers defense will certainly be stout, but will the Pittsburgh offense be strong enough to hold off the Ravens for a second time?

I said before the playoffs started the Baltimore Ravens looked like the best prepared team to really make a strong run at a Super Bowl. The Ravens have really matured on the offensive side of the ball and the defense is a very tough unit. Baltimore has played better than anyone in the 2nd half of the season winning 11 of their last 13 games. In the last 8 games, Baltimore is only allowing 10.2 points per game. If you throw out the Cowboys high scoring game, the Ravens are only allowing an amazing 8 points per contest. On top of that, the Baltimore offense has really come around late in the year. Rookie QB Joe Flacco is throwing more passes and controlling the ball well. The Ravens ground game has been solid this season as well behind the legs of Le’Ron McClain and Willis McGahee. Both running backs will share carries and they have both shown the can be effective backs. Baltimore was shut down by the Pittsburgh offense in their last meeting only putting up 202 total yards. The offense should have a bit more confidence this time around and it will be interesting to see if they can get the job done. The turnovers will be a key category in this game. Last meeting, both teams have two turnovers a piece and it will be very crucial for each team to hold onto the ball in a field position type ball game. Look for this ball game to possibly be another very low scored game controlled by defense.

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Posted in NFL Football - Last Updated on Monday, January 12th, 2009 @ 5:21 pm (EST)
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