My enjoyment of the games today will be greatly dampened by the fact that the weather here in Chicago has been so bad that I haven't received a satellite signal in a week. Yes, it's back to the old school today--I will be watching the games through the snowy over-the-air reception that will no longer even be available next month. The thing is, yes, it was snowy and 20 degrees below zero last week, but last winter was pretty damn brutal as well, and I didn't lose my signal for a significant amount of time. I'm looking at my dish, and while it's got some snow inside and some icicles hanging off, it's not covered in snow and ice. But it's on the roof, so I can't go clean it off, and DirecTV will not send anyone out here to service it because my problem is weather-related. I don't understand why I'm getting screwed like this. But so long as DirecTV doesn't charge me for the days I'm missing, I guess I'll deal with it. And if it's still like this for the Super Bowl, I can go to a relative's house and tape the game. Anyway, on to the picks:
Philadelphia (-3.5) @ Arizona
Let me take this opportunity to claim that I, and only I, can have any opinion on the worthiness of the Arizona Cardinals to advance to the Super Bowl because I was the only person to pick them to go through the first two playoff games. Not many people had them beating the Falcons, and absolutely no one had them beating the Panthers, and not only did they beat Carolina, they did it the way I said they would, scoring at will on an overrated defense and using their athletes on defense to shut down the Panthers offense. There was no luck involved in that win. That's the way the Cards could play all the time if they were focused and playing as a team, which they have the last two games. And right off the bat, I'll say that I'll stick with them to cover the spread. A home underdog by more than a field goal after the way they've been playing? That's ludicrous, and it's nothing more than the same losers who had Arizona dead way before the NFC Finals today saying, "Oh, well, now they're gonna get it." Yeah, like they were gonna get it against Atlanta and Carolina. STFU. All that said, I always declared that I would take the Cards' opponent the first time they played a real defense. Atlanta, not a real defense. Carolina, not a real defense. Philly, yep, that's a real defense. 4th against the run, 3rd against the pass, allowing a measly 6.14 yards per pass attempt. And maybe most important, 48 team sacks, 3rd best in the league, and 22 forced fumbles, tied for 4th. QB Kurt Warner is due to get dumped on his head a few times and cough up the football, which he got ran out of New York for doing that an average of about 54 times per game. And regardless of how many times he says it didn't matter, Eagles QB Donovan McNabb has been playing his ass off ever since he got benched against Baltimore. It did matter. He obviously asked himself if he still had any good football left, and could he summon it to prove that he's still the man in Philly. And summon it, he has. The spotlight may be a bit bright for the Cardinals, who are not used to being the focus of the football world. The Eagles, after dealing with Terrell Owens and benchings and four conference finals in the past decade, this is nothing new for them. The question will be, is McNabb going to prepare for an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl, or to get revenge on the Ravens for getting him benched?
My Pick: Philadelphia 26-23
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (-6)
I've heard this game referred to on multiple platforms as a "manhood game," the penultimate clash of two defensive titans who just plain don't like each other, the test of wills, the impenetrable force vs. the immovable object. So, um, just how is this game a six-point spread?? I've been back and forth all week on my pick, but not on the spread. I don't see how the Steelers can possibly beat the Ravens by almost a touchdown. After the way the Ravens have played? Not likely. I may get the prediction wrong, because I truly think this game can go either way, but I will enjoy watching it greatly. (BTW, I think this is the Super Bowl. As if the hype isn't big enough, I think that the winner of the AFC title game will defeat the NFC winner in the Super Bowl, whomever the two teams may be, making this game the de facto Super Bowl. No pressure, boys.) It's the rookie QB for the Ravens, Joe Flacco, against the veteran QB for the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger. It's a couple of top-notch running games taking pressure off the QBs. And, of course, it's the top two defenses in football, with the Ravens coming in 2nd overall for the regular season. The X-factor is Steelers RB Willie Parker. If he's healthy, and he looked healthy last week against the Chargers, then his speed and cutback ability will make him very effective against a large but somewhat immobile Ravens defensive line. The Steelers won a couple of close ones against the Ravens in the regular season, which may give the Ravens a shot of extra adrenaline, not wanting to lose to their hated rivals three times. But the Steelers are experienced and intelligent enough to figure out a way to win a 3rd time. Give me the Steel Curtain on their home field, but certainly not by a touchdown.
My Pick: Pittsburgh 19-16
(UPDATE @ 1:21P--I got my DirecTV back! Wahoo!! And just in time for football.)