January 17, 2009

NFL Championship Week Picks

Looking forward to both these games on Sunday. Some interesting storylines.

Some picks:

Philly over Arizona -

When it comes to postseasons in any sport, I'm always interested in legacies. It seems like the big talk of late has been whether Kurt Warner or Donovan McNabb could bolster their Hall of Fame credentials by taking their teams back to the Super Bowl.

With Donovan McNabb, I can understand it. I've always felt like McNabb was a little overrated, but I can't deny his record. McNabb has been a top 10 quarterback for almost a decade, a five time Pro Bowler, and he's led Philly to 5 NFC Championship games. If you're talking about the NFL during this decade (especially the NFC), McNabb is going to be brought into the conversation within a couple minutes. If he goes to the Super Bowl for a second time, you can make a strong case that he's the Jim Kelly of this decade. And if he wins the Super Bowl, he probably enters a different strata and cements his status as the 3rd most accomplished QB of this decade. McNabb is a high-profile player in every way. Quarterbacks are always going to get the most attention, and he's definitely the biggest name out of this Eagles group.

Plus, McNabb has had NOTHING to work with. He has had exactly one season with a Pro Bowl receiver (2004), and he had his best statistical season. I do think that has to be taken into consideration.

Don't get me wrong, if I had a Hall of Fame vote, I probably would not vote for McNabb. When he had that stretch where he always got hurt, they would suddenly start playing better without him. He was like the poster child for the Ewing Theory for about a three year stretch. When you go down and Jeff Garcia suddenly reels off a bunch of wins and looks like a Pro Bowler as your replacement, I get a little leery of talking about you as a Hall of Famer. But I can at least UNDERSTAND why he would be considered a Hall of Famer.

But Kurt Warner??? Are you kidding me??? How is anyone talking about Kurt freaking Warner as a Hall of Famer??

Let's break down this guy's career.

Warner came into the league in 1998 as a 27 year old (not his fault) and became the starter for the Rams in 1999. Obviously, he had an incredible three year run with the Rams. 1999 NFL MVP, 1999 Super Bowl MVP, led the team back to the Super Bowl in
2000, and then goes on to become the MVP of the league again in 2001. That's as good of a 3 year run as anyone has probably had in the history of the league.

But after that, he was a borderline starter/backup for 6 years!! SIX!! The guy didn't start more than 10 games in a season from 2002 until 2007. He has obviously revived his career in the last couple years in Arizona, but how can a guy who spent the majority of his career as either a backup or a split time starter be considered a Hall of Famer under any circumstances?? I wouldn't even put him in the Hall of Fame if he wins the Super Bowl.

Warner has a bunch of career stats that will get touted as well. He has the second highest completion percentage in NFL history and the highest average passing yards per game stat in the history of the league. I think both those stats are interesting, but I think they just show that Warner has been really really good when he has had chances to start and be the man in an offense. But in terms of his overall career, Warner doesn't have the type of dominance over a long period of time that merits him for the Hall of Fame.

For that reason alone, I'm rooting for Philly to win this game. I can't stand the idea of Kurt Warner being touted as a Hall of Famer. I also think Philly is the better team here. Arizona has been hot, but they are still a one-dimensional team that could fall apart at any point. I don't think you can win a Super Bowl as a one trick pony, and that's basically what the Cardinals are. Philly has a great defense, a good coach, and great balance on offense. I think they'll create a game plan to limit Fitzgerald and win this game.

Steelers over the Ravens - Let me just say first that I can't wait for this game. I am so glad that this game will be starting at 6:30 pm on Sunday. Nothing like settling in on a Sunday evening to watch an absolute slug fest for the AFC Championship in a freezing cold setting. You can't beat it. These teams know each other real well and hate each other. Should be phenomenal. As a Bengals fan, I hope this game wears both teams out and sets them back for a decade. Hey, I can dream, can't I??

The only down side for viewers on this game is that I feel like it's not a Jim Nantz-Phil Simms type game. Steelers-Ravens in January is going to be a violent war. You sort of need an announcer who can bring up the intensity a little bit. Nantz announces football games like he's in the Butler Cabin. Don't get me wrong, I love Jim Nantz, but this game NEEDS a Gus Johnson or even a Greg Gumbel. I thought Gumbel and Dierdorf were great last week in Tennessee, and I'd love to see them back for this game. I can live with Nantz be waxing poetic about Jim Nantz type things and Simms telling us how great "Ben" is, but this game sort of demands a different broadcast team. Oh well.

I know everyone is giddy about the Joe Flacco era in Baltimore, so I figured I would throw a little cold water on the "Flacco is a young star" bandwagon. I think he'll turn out better than Kyle Boller and some of the other dreck that the Ravens have trotted out in recent years, but I think it's way too early to start talking about him as a "great" young quarterback. I'm not even sure that he's going to be a good NFL quarterback. Flacco doesn't turn it over or make any bad decisions, but he's not asked to do anything at this point. The Ravens play Tressel Ball offensively. Two runs up the middle and a deep out on 3rd and long followed by a punt. That's their offense for 2/3 of the game.

People are comparing Flacco to Roethlisberger since both led their teams to the AFC Championship games in their rookie years. LUDICROUS. If you watched Roethlisberger in his first year, he was a playmaker for that Steelers team and a big reason why they made it that far. They let him roll out and make throws. Flacco doesn't do any of that. He's just out there to hold down the fort until the defense gets back on the field.

Flacco may turn out to be good. He's got a nice arm, and I've seen him look good at times this year. I just don't think it's a foregone conclusion at all just because his team is doing well. He is not even close to the biggest reason why that team keeps winning.

That's the biggest reason why I think the Steelers are winning this game. Both teams have great defenses, but the Steelers have the offensive firepower to put points on the board. They are capable of winning a game with their offense unlike the Ravens. The Ravens have to scratch and claw just to do anything offensively.

The Ravens got it done last week, but they got thoroughly outplayed last week by the Titans. Tennessee was running and throwing all over them and would have won the game if not for some dumb fumbles. The Ravens D has a mystique about them, but they got exposed a little bit last weeks against the Titans. And some of their best defensive players are injured now. I think the Steelers will put up points on Baltimore.

The only way the Ravens can win this game is if the Steelers hand it to them, which definitely could happen. Roethlisberger is usually a pretty good clutch player, but he'll do just enough goofy/dumb things to always leave open the door for him to be a goat. Roethlisberger loves to hang around in the pocket to make a play, and he might not be able to get away with that stuff against the Ravens. He cannot afford to turn it over.

The Steeler have a history of choking at home in the playoffs, so I do think it's possible that Harbaugh will draw up a great game plan that keeps it low scoring and gives the Ravens a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter. And the familiarity between the Ravens and Steelers is definitely something to take into consideration.

Definitely should be an interesting game, but I think the Steelers will advance and get to the Bowl.

1 comment:

Matt said...