PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ ARIZONA CARDINALS
Even the Arizona Cardinals can hardly believe the situation they now find themselves in; 9-7 in the regular season and now with a home game in the NFC Conference championship. And what's more, after I totally wrote them off against Atlanta, and then Carolina, I give them a good chance to win through to the Superbowl. Both the Cards and the Eagles benefited last week from their opponents sucking. The Giants were below par and Eli Manning had a forgettable evening against the Eagles. Still, Philly had to play well to get the win at Meadowlands. Arizona, on the other hand, simply turned up and watched the Panthers self-destruct. I don't think I've ever seen a really good team suck as bad as that. That said, the Cardinals passing game is clicking, even without Anquan Boldin (who might be back for this game), and they have established some sort of running game, which was non-existent during the regular season. Edgerrin James appears to be reborn at the right time...when he's looking for a new contract somewhere. But alas, Larry Fitzgerald is the man. He's made unbelievable catches all season, but his catches in the post-season are inspiring his team-mates to play their roles better. Their defense has also improved out of sight in recent weeks. The Eagles'offense, led by Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook, has been very reliable of late and they should be able to move the ball down the field without too much trouble in this one. Philly's defense was superb last week, keeping the Giants without a TD. They face a more difficult assignment than a struggling Eli Manning here though. If they can shut down Arizona's resurgent running game I think they'll sneak away with the win. The Eagles defend the passing game better than the Panthers in general, and infinitely better than the Panthers defended the pass last week. But the Cardinals are at home...hmmm... I'm having trouble splitting the two teams but if you dangled me off a balcony until I picked one...Eagles to represent the NFC in the Superbowl.
BALTIMORE RAVENS @ PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Two of the top defenses in the NFL face off in the AFC Championship game. Baltimore's defense showed some of what they could do against the Titans, but the worry must be how long they were on the field. If you're being fair dinkum, the Titans should have won that game; they dominated time of posession, but shot themselves in the foot with three red zone turnovers. I detected what looked like a bit of tiredness in the Ravens defense late last week and their offense needs to step up if they are going to roll the Steelers here. Rookie QB Joe Flacco, who has done a super job to get them this far, needs to find a bit more time of posession from the passing game to compliment the running game of Le'Ron McClain (a favourite of the Professor) and Willis McGahee. At this stage of the season, Pittsburgh seem to have a great balance with Willie Parker and Mewelde Moore trucking it up, Ben Roethlisberger playing well and the defense doing their thing. I've said before that I'm not the biggest fan of Big Ben but he is throwing nicely of late...but I still don't entirely trust him. He'd want to be careful against the likes of Ed Reed or he could wind up with multiple interceptions. Taking everything into account, I'm tipping the Steelers. I think they'll be too good here and are deserved Superbowl favourites.