The NFL is down to its Final Four. I was lucky to survive going 2-2 in my Divisional Picks, many did not have that kind of fortune last week. It was not a week for those with a weak stomach. What were the odds on these four in September? Besides, the Steelers who were no lock to get this far in September, when some were picking the Browns to take the division are the only team that isn’t a surprise. Many had the Ravens in a rebuilding year starting a rookie quarterback named Joe Flacco from a Division I-AA school. For the Eagles, after a humiliating tie to the Bengals, followed by getting blown out and benching McNabb, the Eagles were ready to go in a new direction in 2009 with Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid set to part ways. And the Cardinals? Well, we know no NFL team named the Cardinals could ever play in a championship game, let alone host a playoff game.
It’s a one game survive and advance tournament, and there are no number 16 seeds, a 6 seed is just as dangerous as the number 1 seed, if we had any number 1 seeds left, they disappeared last week. Home field advantage? A thing of the past. The NFC teams are 4-0 on the road.
Ravens 17, Steelers 13 – I’m not sure how it will happen, but I think the Ravens can pull this one out. It reminds me of the 2001 AFC Championship Game when the Patriots went into Pittsburgh, with a young QB, solid defense, and not given much of a chance of winning. The Steelers have hosted the AFC Championship way too many times to mention. Most of the time, the Steelers lose to a team they should have beat. They have let the home crowd down in these contests. The Ravens offense will need to make a few more plays than they did against the Titans, but special teams and defense will win this game. I still think the Ravens are bitter from their two close losses to the Steelers, and especially the last one where the Ravens felt cheated on a challenge. I don’t think the Steelers wanted to see the Ravens again. They won’t be as lucky this time.
Cardinals 24, Eagles 20 – Throw out the first meeting on Thanksgiving night in Philly. The Cardinals do not have to fly east this time. How come no one says much about teams from the east flying out to the west? The Eagles seem a little banged up, while Anquan Boldin returns to the lineup for Arizona. What worries me is that Eagles Defensive Coordinator who loves to blitz, will blitz Kurt Warner into mistakes. The Cardinals need to counter this with draws, screens and just throwing the ball up to Larry Fitzgerald who can out jump any secondary. The Eagles have been feasting on turnovers, the Cardinals can’t give them the game. The Cardinal defense will need to make one big play to stop McNabb. I think it comes late in the game, and then the bedlam in Glendale will last long into the night.
The Arizona Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl. Raymond James Stadium will dressed in Cardinal red, oops it already is red thanks to the Buccaneers.
Last year’s Super Bowl, the most watched football game of all time, if it ends up being the Ravens and the Cardinals, I could see at least a 10% drop in ratings, and some advertisers regretting that they spent $100,000 for a second of time during the game.