We are down to the final four in the 2008-2009 NFL season, and Conference Championship weekend is upon us. This is the weekend where the best games of the playoffs usually take place, as the battle to appear in Tampa for Super Bowl 43 begins. Lets Get To The Picks.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES -4 AT ARIZONA CARDINALS
PHILADELPHIA NEEDS TO: get to Kurt Warner. Jimmy Johnson will have a scheme and strategy ready to attack the Cardinals quarterback, and he is going to need one the way the Arizona offensive line has been protecting Kurt. The plan will be to disrupt the Zona offense and rattle Warner. Breaking the rhythm of the Cardinal passing game is vital, and Warner has to be knocked down and sacked in order to achieve this. On offense Philly cant turn the ball over and they need McNabb to get the ball in the hands of playmakers Brian Westbrook and Desean Jackson.
ARIZONA NEEDS TO: protect quarterback Kurt Warner. Arizona also has to remain balanced. The running game is a complete must vs. the Eagles defense, as a one-dimensional offense gamelan has very small chance of succeeding against this Eagle’s defense. On defense, Arizona needs to keep their aggressive playmaking performance up. Darnell Dockett needs to win the battle at the line and young defensive backs Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Antrel Rolle need to continue their ball hawking success.
PREDICTION: Despite my absolute confidence in Eagle’s defensive coordinator Jimmy Johnson, I just feel that the hot and streaking Arizona Cardinals are playing at a high that isn’t ready to fall. I expect Kurt Warner to get the ball out quickly to burn the Philly blitz. The Cardinals momentum at home will continue, as the energy on defense will force McNabb into a turnover or two. Arizona 24-20.
BALTIMORE RAVENS AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS -6
BALTIMORE NEEDS TO: win the turnover battle. The toughness on this Baltimore team is evident after watching them play week after week, but has it paid its toll after 18 grueling physical games? The vital injuries to key players in Samari Rolle, Terrell Suggs, and LeRon McClain are obvious factors in this conference championship game, even if two of the three end up active. Flacco has to continue to not force throws and to maintain avoiding the sacks that could set the Raven offense back.
PITTSBURGH NEEDS TO: wear down the Baltimore defense. If Pittsburgh is able to get Willie Parker going and Ben Roethlisberger protects the ball things will be smooth for the Steelers. Big Ben needs to take advantage of Baltimore’s weakness at the cornerback position. On defense, Pitt needs to rattle Flacco. Joe “Cool” needs to feel the heat from the Steelers linebackers. They also have to prevent the big plays while staying focused throughout the complete game.
PREDICTION: The bye week finally showed its benefit somewhere in the league this year, as the Pittsburgh Steelers come into this game Sunday evening in much better physical shape then the Baltimore Ravens. Expect Willie Parker to find running room just like Chris Johnson did before the Ravens defense knocked him out of the game. This will open up the passing game for Pitt on the shorthanded Baltimore corners. The Ravens toughness and resiliency will bend but not break though, as they will never let this game get out of reach. Pittsburgh 22-19.
Pete’s Playoff Picks 5-3