Dave's Sports Views

Analysis, humor and opinion on the sports world

Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Friday, January 20, 2006

Conference Championship Picks

Since I’ve analyzed the teams already, I’ll make these picks short and sweet. Two interesting tidbits about the games:

1. Unlike last week, which had four rematches from the regular season, the teams playing this week are largely unfamiliar with each other, having played only once each since 2001. Carolina and Seattle met on Oct. 31, 2004, with the Seahawks winning at home, 23-17. The injury-riddled Panthers were in the midst of six-game losing streak. Similar circumstances surrounded Pittsburgh and Denver’s last meeting, on Oct. 12, 2003. The Broncos pulled out a 17-14 victory in Denver, handing the Steelers their third loss in a five-game losing streak, again largely a result of injuries. Though the Steelers went 6-10 that year, their position allowed them to draft Ben Roethlisberger with the 11th pick of the subsequent draft.

2. In the past seven years, one Conference Championship game has gone to the home team and one has gone to the road team. The last road sweep was 1998 (Denver over Pittsburgh and Green Bay over San Francisco). The last home sweep was 1997 (New England over Jacksonville and Green Bay over Carolina).

Pittsburgh at Denver – The teams are remarkably similar, ranking in the top five in the NFL in both rushing offense and rushing defense. Both the Steelers and Broncos like to put heat on the quarterback and use their athleticism at linebacker and safety. Both have fierce offensive lines and smart wide receivers. And both have quarterbacks with something to prove. Roethlisberger, despite exceptional games the last two weeks, needs to erase a horrible performance in last season’s AFC Championship. Jake Plummer needs to play like the quarterback that he hasn’t been consistently in nine seasons, the guy whom Bill Walsh once compared to Joe Montana. Big Ben has shown signs that he’s ready to take the next step and become one of the league’s elite quarterbacks. Plummer will still be a guy who hasn’t lived up to his potential, until he wins a game like this one. Steelers 17, Broncos 10

Carolina at Seattle – The Panthers might be getting more support than any recent road playoff team not named New England. They have an experienced team and one that has played very well on the road under John Fox. I just keep coming back to one thing: Seattle is a different place to play. Unlike New York and Chicago, where the fans’ spirit seemed to be broken when the Panthers took early leads, Seattle fans haven’t been to the playoffs enough to give up early. The Seahawks, after a few seasons of modest success, have taken a big jump this year and look ready to take the final step. Shaun Alexander’s health is a question, but so is Julius Peppers’. Seattle showed last week that they can win without Alexander against a good defense. Carolina hasn’t had to prove they can win without a healthy Peppers. Nick Goings replaces DeShaun Foster, and he’s a talented running back, but I’m betting he won’t be the threat that keeps the Seahawks from keying on Steve Smith. Seahawks 27, Panthers 20



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