Ravens and Eagles Will Win AFC and NFC Championships

Ken KnightCorrespondent IJanuary 15, 2009

Over the course of the last few NFL seasons, I have often been left to ponder the reasons why many people refer to Bill Belichick as a "Genius"?  

It almost seems like the true and very popular cliché "defense wins championships" is but a hollow statement. Obviously, Belichick has not learned a damn thing from the '98 Vikings and his own '07 Patriots.  

Two of the most powerful and highest-scoring offenses in the history of the NFL could not close the deal. The Giants defense was clearly the difference in the Super Bowl, and New England’s lack of defense was the main reason they missed the playoffs this season.

You can point to the New York Jets scoring effortlessly on their overtime drive at Gillette Stadium in these teams’ second meeting, or allowing 38 points to the Miami Dolphins at home in their first meeting.  

It was clear to me that the New England’s defense was ill-prepared to play an NFL game on that fateful day. It is possible to attribute this to their failure to make a stop in the game at Indianapolis as well.

Of the final four teams left standing after the 2008 season and the first two rounds of the playoffs, three rightfully boast 2008 Top Three defenses.  

That would include yards allowed, as well as points allowed.  

Coincidence? I think not!

It was quite impressive for the Arizona Cardinals to go into Carolina and dominate last week. I must give them credit for that feat. However, Carolina does not employ the likes of Jim Johnson.  

He is a big-time, big game defensive coordinator, and in my opinion, one of the best in the league. He will have the Eagles defense well prepared to physically outplay this explosive Cardinals offense.  

In two playoff games, the Eagles have allowed an average of 12.5 points per game on the road. The question for me will be if the Eagles will score enough points to outpace the Cardinals’ offense.  

They have posted an average of 24.5 points on the road in two playoff games versus the Vikings and Giants, who's defenses were much better than the Cardinals during the 2008 season.  

Based on this information, I really like Philadelphia's chances to advance to Tampa.

So much for the finesse side of this year’s NFL Championship weekend.

Although I am not looking forward to the AFC Championship game between the Ravens and Steelers due to what I believe will be a lack of offensive scoring, that does not mean I won't be looking forward to it at all.  

My favorite part of any football game is the brutal, bone-bruising physical contact. There will be no shortage of that aspect in this game.  For this, I am eagerly awaiting this contest with baited breath. This game will not be for the faint of heart.  

This will be a little Bednarik and Lambert, mixed with a lot of Lott. (No pun intended, just pain.) They had better employ extra trainers and extra stretchers for this one.

I can't tell you how impressed I am with the rookie head coach and rookie quarterback combination of John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco.  I realize they benefited immensely from a stellar defense, but let's not lose sight of the fact that prior to their arrival in Baltimore, this team had won only five games during the entire 2007 NFL season—not to mention the fact that they served up the 1-15 Miami Dolphins their only win.

I take nothing away from the Steelers.  How could I when they posted the no. one defense in total yards allowed, passing yards allowed, and points allowed, with 13.9. They also were No. 2 in rushing yards allowed.  

Just be aware that the Ravens did not get to where they are with offense, although their No. 11 offense was quite respectable. I just believe it is extremely difficult to beat a team twice in one season, never mind three times.

Let's not forget about the last meeting between these teams.  

Remember there was a bogus call late in that game as there was clearly not nearly enough evidence to over-turn a non-touchdown call.

After enduring that Patriots "miraculous" scoring drive in which the Ravens defense were flagged three times on third down while leading 24-20 in the Monday Night game on Dec. 3, 2007, combined with the call this past season and the Ravens must have had their fill with bogus referee calls influencing the outcome of their games.  

I cannot blame them for that.  If any defense could muster up a goal line stand from the 1-yard line, it surely is this one. The Ravens just seem to be the team of destiny to me this season.

This will be the fourth time in the history of the AFC Championship game when division rivals have faced off.  The road team is 3-0.


(Note: All rankings are for the entire NFL during the 2008 regular season.)

NFC Championship Game: Philadelphia Eagles @ Arizona Cardinals

These teams met on Thanksgiving night, which turned out to be the climax of a Turkey Day where the NFL action in all three games caused many more folks to nod off than the tryptophan in the turkeys they had devoured.

The Eagles pounded the Cardinals 48-20.  This meeting will be much more competitive—one would hope.

This matchup features the Eagles ninth ranked offense in total yards by averaging 350.5 yards per game—sixth in passing with 244.4 yards per game and 22nd in rushing with 106.1 yards per game. Philly's scoring offense was ranked sixth and averaged 26.0 points per game.

The Cardinals defense was ranked 19th in total yards by allowing an average of 331.5 yards per game—22nd in passing with 221.2 yards per game and 16th in rushing with 110.2 yards per game.  Arizona's scoring defense was ranked 19th by allowing and average of 26.6 points per game.

The Eagles defense was ranked third in total defense by allowing an average of 274.3 yards per game—third in passing with 182.1 yards per game and fourth in rushing with 92.2 yards per game. Philly's scoring defense was ranked third by allowing an average of 18.1 points per game.

The Cardinals offense was ranked fourth in total yards by averaging 365.8 yards per game—second in passing with 292.1 yards per game and 32nd—dead last—in rushing with 73.6 yards per game. Arizona's scoring offense was ranked third by averaging 26.7 points per game.

I firmly believe in the "defense wins championships" theory and it should apply here. Jim Johnson should be the difference.

Predicted outcome: Eagles 27, Cardinals 24

AFC Championship Game: Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers

As previously stated, these teams are division rivals.  

The Steelers were on the winning end in both meetings.  The first on Sept. 29 was won in overtime, 23-20. The game could have gone either way.

The second was a hard-fought 13-9 win by Pittsburgh in which the aforementioned controversial call by the officials was made.  Let's hope it will be a different crew calling this game.  

Roger Goodell pulling off anything which makes absolutely no sense at all could not possibly take me by surprise...seriously.

This match-up features the Ravens 18th ranked offense in total yards by averaging 324.0 yards per game—28th in passing with 175.5 yards per game and fourth in rushing with 148.5 yards per game. Baltimore's scoring offense was ranked 11th by averaging 24.1 points per game.

The Steelers defense was ranked first in total defense by allowing an average of 237.2 yards per game—first in passing with 156.9 yards per game and second in rushing with 80.2 yards per game. Pittsburgh's scoring defense was ranked first by allowing 13.9 points per game.

The Ravens defense was ranked second in total defense by allowing an average of 261.1 yards per game—second in passing with 179.9 yards per game and third in rushing yards with 81.4 yards per game. Baltimore's scoring defense was ranked second by allowing 15.2 points per game.

The Steelers offense was ranked 22nd by averaging 311.9 yards per game—17th in passing with 206.3 yards per game and 23rd in rushing with 105.6 yards per game. Pittsburgh’s scoring offense was ranked 20th by scoring 21.7 points per game.

There is no doubt defense will win this game as these teams are fairly evenly matched and have the same M.O.  

"Bloodbath" seems like a reasonable term to sum it up.

Predicted outcome: Ravens 16, Steelers 13

I realize I am picking both road teams. In my opinion, home field advantage has become a thing of the past in the NFL.


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