After spending over a year in prediction hibernation due to an embarrassing 2007 (Bulls in the NBA Finals, Ravens/Saints Super Bowl, Tigers/Diamondbacks World Series, Texas A&M in the National Championship game), I've decided to start fresh with a new year.
Here's a look at Championship Sunday...
Philadelphia at ARIZONA (+4): The Eagles look like a team that's on a mission, and they are finally playing to their potential. The fact that Philly went 9-6-1 is much more surprising than the fact that they're just one game away from a Super Bowl berth. This is the team that we should've seen all season. All of that being said, with as wacky and unpredictable as this NFL season has been, I think people aren't giving the Cardinals enough of a chance. One of the biggest factors in this game is that Arizona is at home, where they're a different team. Anquan Boldin is going to give it a go, and his mere prescene is a huge impact considering that the Eagles won't be able to double Larry Fitzgerald. I'm basing this on nothing but I like the Cardinals because nothing this season has followed the script.
The Shots pick: Cardinals 27, Eagles 23
BALTIMORE (-5.5) at Pittsburgh: First off let me say that a 5 1/2 point spread in this game is ridiculous. The two regular season matchups were decided by a total of 7 points - why would the spread be anything more than 3 1/2? Too many people are comparing this Ravens team to the 2000 squad that won the Super Bowl. They're very different. The 2000 Ravens had an all-time defense, and while this year's version is outstanding, it's not legendary. However, this year's Ravens offense is much more capable than the Trent Dilfer-led squad of eight years ago. The Steelers are hosting an AFC Championship game for the sixth time in 14 years, but are just 1-4 in those appearances (the only win being in '95 against the Colts). The bottom line in this game is that I think the Ravens defense is more likely to make the big play than the Steelers defense is. Also, Pittsburgh's protection issues could be their fatal flaw.
The Shots pick: Ravens 17, Steelers 14
Of course this probably means that you should get ready for an Eagles/Steelers Super Bowl...