Ravens (+6) at Steelers: In one of the more brutal rivalries, this one should have some extra spice. Not only is this for the right to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl but the Ravens are still seething over the 13-9 loss to the Steelers at home last month. Trailing 9-6, the Steelers embarked on a 12 play, 92 yard drive, culminating in a Ben Roethlisberger 4-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes with 43 seconds to play. However, the play was initially ruled down inside the one yard line but was reversed and called a TD when the replay officials took a gander. Since that game you know the Ravens defense was hoping for another opportunity at their hated rivals.
In the end, I believe the Ravens will not have enough to pull this one off. Since they had an unscheduled bye in week 2 of the regular season, Baltimore will be playing in its 18th consecutive week this Sunday. It looked as though the grind had taken its toll last week against Tennessee when the Titans moved the ball effectively while the Ravens missed some easy tackles. The Ravens were able to win in large part because Tennessee turned the ball over three times in Baltimore territory. They shouldn't rely on the Steelers making the same mistakes.
I say the Steelers will emerge victorious 17-10.
Eagles (-3.5) at Cardinals: When the Eagles hosted the Cards on Thanksgiving night, they were entering the game having endured a highly tumultuous week. But with his team limping along at 5-5-1 and having been benched the previous Sunday, QB Donovan McNabb responded by torching the Cardinals for four touchdown passes in a 48-20 Eagles rout. In this his tenth season as a pro, McNabb will be making his fifth start in an NFC title game.
Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner is no stranger to big games, having been to two Super Bowls and wining one. After a lackluster finish to the regular season, Warner has responded with two solid games this postseason. It also hasn’t hurt that the Cards running game has been rediscovered. Even though they’ve only averaged 3.3 yards per carry the past two games, Arizona has shown a commitment to sustaining a running attack. When was the last time the Cards ran the ball more than they threw it over a two-game stretch (71 rushes, 64 passes this postseason)?
I look for McNabb to continue his resurgence as well as the blitz happy Eagles defense to force Warner into some bad throws (he was picked off three times in the week 13 matchup).
Eagles win 27-17.
Straight up: 3-5-0