| Mark Maske's Conference Championships Picks |
Web Posted: Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2005; 3:16 p.m. EST
Falcons at Eagles
The Eagles shook the rust off their game and, with the aid of the Vikings' inept play, advanced to their fourth straight NFC championship game in their first meaningful game of the year without WR Terrell Owens. But they have matchup problems with the Falcons. Atlanta runs the ball well, and stopping the run always has been the major issue for the Philadelphia defense, even leading coordinator Jim Johnson to reshuffle the lineup during the season. The Falcons have two superb pass rushers in DT Rod Coleman and DE Patrick Kerney, and can afford to take an aggressive defensive approach without Owens around to make them pay. Atlanta undoubtedly will make more of an effort than the Vikings did to take away RB Brian Westbrook as the go-to guy for Eagles QB Donovan McNabb. There were times during the season when the Falcons looked like a pretender. But after last weekend's dismantling of the Rams, they have looked more and more like last season's Panthers.
Patriots at Steelers
It's crazy, isn't it, to pick against Patriots Coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady at this time of the year? Perhaps. But this isn't a chess match, like putting all the Xs and Os in the right places to befuddle the Colts' finesse offense yet again. The Steelers will try to run the ball right down the Patriots' throats. Only if that doesn't work will the Steelers turn to rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger to win or lose the game for them. Patriots RB Corey Dillon won't be running against the Colts defense this time. The Steelers are lucky to still be playing after what should have been a loss to the Jets. But they still are the most complete team in the league. They have home-field advantage. And, unlike the Colts, they know they can beat the Patriots, thanks to their regular-season win over them.
Last Week: 3-1
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