year's Super Bowl.
One thing we know for sure is the survivors of the conference
championship games will not be the teams who met in last year's
Super Bowl. The New England Patriots did not qualify fo r the playoffs,
and the New York Giants lost to Philadelphia last weekend.
With the frigid, snowy weather the northern portion of the United States
has been experiencing, it's only natural for fans to wonder what
kind of impact the weather will have on the games.
The weather should not be a problem in Arizona, where the current
forecasts call for sunny conditions and temperatures in the mid-70s
Sunday afternoon. But the NFL might wish it had reversed its schedule
and permitted the Steelers and Ravens to play in the afternoon instead
of the evening. Snow is a 50% possibility in Pittsburgh on Sunday
afternoon and evening, but, obviously, it will be warmer during the day
(predicted high near 27°) than it will be after the sun goes down (the
predicted low for Sunday night is 14°).
Philadelphia (9-6-1) at Arizona (9-7-0)
3 p.m. (EST), FOX
They say defense wins championships. If that is so, the Eagles may
emerge from the showdown with Arizona as the NFC's representative
in the Super Bowl.
But first, let's take a brief look at the offenses.
The offensive statistics appear pretty even. However, the Cardinals have
a statistical advantage at quarterback. Arizona's Kurt Warner led
the NFC in QB rating (96.9) while Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb was
10th in the NFC in that category (86.4). Warner also led the NFC in
completion percentage (67.1%) while McNabb was ninth (60.4%).
McNabb managed to finish fourth in the league in passing yards (3,916),
although he still trailed Warner (4,583). And Warner accounted for more
passing TDs than McNabb did, 30-23. It's worth pointing out,
though, that McNabb's longest pass completion (90 yards) exceeded
Warner's longest (79).
But, when you think about it, it probably isn't too difficult for
Warner to excel when he has receivers like Larry Fitzgerald (NFC's
leader in receiving yardage with 1,431, tied for first in receiving TDs
with 12, league leader in receptions with 96), Anquan Boldin (ninth in
the NFC in receiving yardage with 1,038, third in receiving TDs with 11,
second in receptions with 89) and Steve Breaston (11th in the NFC in
receiving yardage with 1,006, 12th in receptions with 77) as targets.
As far as interceptions were concerned, the two were fairly even. Warner
threw 14, McNabb threw 11.
Sixteen running backs in the NFL ran for at least 1,000 yards this
season, but none played for the Cardinals or the Eagles. In fact, no
1,000-yard rusher remains in the playoffs following the elimination last
weekend of the Giants, Panthers, Chargers and Titans, all of whom did
have running backs who cracked the 1,000-yard barrier. Of the running
backs who are still playing, Brian Westbrook of the Eagles came the
closest to 1,000, with 936 yards. Arizona's top rusher was Edgerrin
James with 514 yards.
Turning our attention to defense, the Eagles may be one of the few teams
in the NFL that can travel to Arizona with the confidence to shut down
the Cardinals' passing game.
During the regular season, Philadelphia held opposing QBs to a 54.1%
completion rate while restricting those signal-callers to a 72.9 passer
rating — and the Eagles had to face Eli Manning and Tony Romo twice, not
to mention a game against Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger.
The Eagles routinely held teams under 200 yards passing, giving up an
average of about 182 yards/game. And the Eagles' foes averaged
about 18 points per game, while the Cardinals gave up nearly 27 points
Clark Judge of CBS Sports observes that the Eagles are on the brink of a
trip to the Super Bowl for the fifth time in eight years and suggests
that this time"it's more satisfying," given the obstacles he's
had to overcome.
When the Eagles faced the Cardinals on Thanksgiving night, Philadelphia
picked off Warner three times en route to a 48-20 victory.
I don't think it will be that high scoring again, but I think the
same team will prevail.
My prediction: Philadelphia 21, Arizona 17.