The season of the Cinderella Bears will come to an end Saturday in Soldier Field, where the Bears host the Philadelphia Eagles. This game will be a match of dominating defenses and, in the end, the Eagles’ balanced offense and a duo of running backs, Duce Staley and Correll Buckhalter, will create too many problems for Chicago.
Additionally, always remember the golden rule of the playoffs: never trust an inexperienced and unproven quarterback. Just ask Jay Fiedler. Jim Miller, the Bears quarterback, fits that description. Eagles win.
Speaking of quarterbacks, on Sunday the Green Bay Packers head to the unfrozen tundra of the Dome at America’s Center where Packers’ quarterback Bret Favre meets the greatest show on turf, the St. Louis Rams. Favre created 19 second-half points in a comeback win over San Francisco last week. But the Rams are not the 49ers.
For it to be close late in the game, the Packers’ defense will have to play better than ever. They were able to shut down Garrison Hearst and Terrell Owens, limiting them to less than 100 yards combined, but Marshall Faulk is averaging 5.3 yards a carry.
If this game were at Lambeau Field, where Favre extended his unbeaten home playoff record to 13 games last week, I’d give this a second thought. But it’s not. Rams win.
Saturday night, the Oakland Raiders host the New England Patriots. The Raiders finished the season with three losses, but they’re coming into this weekend with a big win over the New York Jets. Last week the played more like the 10-3 team that started the season.
The aforementioned golden rule applies to quarterback Tom Brady. The slew of veterans on the Raiders will lead Oakland to a victory.
The AFC game on Sunday will feature the Baltimore Ravens at the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are a bruising, smash-mouth football team who should benefit from a two- week vacation.
Baltimore’s running attack will be tamed by Pittsburgh’s defense, which should force the Ravens to use their glaring weakness, the passing game. This has all the makings to be the most entertaining game of the playoffs – one that Pittsburgh will win.
The Rams will host the Eagles in next week’s NFC Championship. This will be a fierce game, which will come down to offensive firepower, something that the Eagles clearly lack. Donovan McNabb is an exceptional talent but James Thrash and Todd Pinkston aren’t exactly Issac Bruce and Torry Holt, who average about 17 yards a catch.
For the AFC Championship, it’ll be Oakland at Pittsburgh. This match-up will be close the whole way through and will be decided by turnovers, as playoff games tend to be. Rich Gannon and Jerry Rice will take good care of the ball and Charles Woodson is always looming on the corner. The game will come down to a last second field goal, in which Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski will split the uprights.