Sunday, January 18, 2009

NFL Championship Weekend

Up here in Brooklyn, it's snowy, it's bitter, it's cold. It's football weather.

Good thing it's championship weekend. Let's preview each of today's games and see who we think is going to win.


Philadelphia Eagles At Arizona Cardinals
It's the battle of the aviary society; two surprising teams not expected to be here, but here they are. For the very surprising cardinals, it's Larry Fitzgerald, some more Larry Fitzgerald, and some surprising takeaway-heavy defense. The Cardinals, who had a truly terrible pass defense during the regular season, suddenly has channeled Deion Sanders. And while McNabb has been known to Air Mail some passes in the playoffs, he's been superb of late.

On the other hand, the defensive front of the Eagles has been amazing, shutting down the Giants running game (which had been bulldozer-like), and has only given up 3.51 YPA during the regular season. The Cardinals will learn quickly they will have to pass to move the ball—however, expect Larry Fitzgerald to be double-teamed, even if Anquan Boldin can play. The bad news for the Cardinals is that the Eagles are rated 5th against the pass, and haven't given up a touchdown via the air since Thanksgiving—against the Cardinals.

Add all this up and it means the Cardinals will have problems moving the ball against the Eagles tough defense. The Eagle will rely on Brian Westbrook and will move the ball enough to win.

Eagles Win 23-17


Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Third times a charm for these teams. But like the first 2 games, most of the odds favor the Steelers. The Steelers front 7 have been second to none, dominating most defensive stats in those areas. Here are some of the numbers: opposing teams have only converted 31% of the time, they average opposing YPA a ridiculous 3.29, first in the NFL. And the Steelers dominating defense extends to the pass defense where opposing teams only average a 56.5 completion rating and a sick 5.35 YPA. And in the snow and tough Steeler home crowd and Joe Flacco is going to have a tough day.

Now, Baltimore has a pretty good defense themselves. Their pass defense generated an impressive 26 interceptions and have a ferocious pass rush. The Steelers offensive line is pretty pourous, so the Steelers' Big Ben is going to have a pretty tough day himself.

The one thing that has stood out in the tough playoff games Baltimore has played is Joe Flacco not making mistakes—even against the tough Titan defense. Baltimore led the league in Big Plays Allowed vs. Big Plays Surrendered, with a +27, way out front in the league in this category—meaning the Ravens are a turnover machine, and prevents opposing teams from doing the same.

Will that be enough? Expect the game to be tough, hard-hitting, and down to the wire. in the end, though expect the Ravens to finally put down the Steelers—in their own house.


Ravens Win 20-16

Enjoy the games.

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