Football Jambalaya -- Undeserving Edition

Okay, so last week I picked the wrong upset -- I should have taken Arizona and not San Diego. But seriously, did you know anyone who honestly thought the Cardinals were going to win outright? I definitely had a weird feeling going in because we had all written that game off to the Panthers but I never completely loved the Panthers offense. And I saw them have a lead on the Giants and fail to close the G-men out. So I should have known better. I will say this -- when it got to 20-7, I truly knew it was over. One thing I never thought the Panthers could do was come back from a big hole when they'd need to be airing it out. I like Jake Delhomme a lot but he's just not that kind of quarterback. And he proved it. Of course, who expected them to be behind by that much?

As for San Diego, what can I say? I'm just an idiot. I really thought Ben Roethlisberger would play poorly after such a serious whack to the head in his previous game. But he almost played better, didn't he? And the Steelers defense is impressive. And San Diego, in the end, was a .500 team that was only .500 at the end of the season because they got hot. So I shoulda known. Again.

And as for the Giants, I don't even want to talk about it. It hurt enough to lose to the Eagles, but to then realize that all that stood between them and another Super Bowl appearance was a home game against the 6-seed Iggles and a home game against the 9-7, 4-seed Cardinals, well, that sucks. And interestingly, all four teams left are teams the Giants beat this season. How's that for an extra kick in the beans

Whatever, let's get on with it.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Arizona Cardinals -- Okay, it's not that they're "undeserving." They did what they needed to do to get here. But seriously, the Cardinals and the Eagles? Two 9-win teams? Whatever, they're here and that's all that matters to them and their fans. And it's all that should matter. So who wins? Well, I think both games this weekend are harder than usual to pick. Normally there's a clear favorite at this time of year, but without knowing the lines, I couldn't tell you who should be favored.

Both are obviously playing well. The Cardinals have looked more than lucky so far, too, having run up points on both their opponents -- both of whom were thought to have pretty good defenses, too. On the other hand, the Eagles honestly should have lost to Minnesota. If Westbrook doesn't break that one 71-yard screen or if Minnesota has a professional quarterback, I think that games goes the other way. And then they looked just as lifeless as the Giants until they suddenly were able to move the ball in the second half. And Samuel's pick certainly got them going in the right direction in both games. So I guess what I'm saying is the Eagles have won with some fortuitous bounces and opponents who weren't playing up to their capabilities, while the Cardinals have won because they've been clicking.

However, I just cannot imagine the Eagles letting Larry Fitzgerald dominate like Carolina did, although I know the Eagles are a blitzing team so maybe covering Fitz isn't a strength. And speaking of blitzing, I don't have a good feeling about Kurt Warner handling pressure. However, a friend of mine pointed out Warner's stats against the blitz, and they're amazing. My only thought on that is that having either Fitzgerald or Boldin as your hot route means you have two monsters able to reel in your panic-induced lasers as a blitz bears down on old Kurt.

What does all this mean? Well, I can see the Eagles winning just because as unimpressive as they've been to me, they just keep finding a way. And I can see Arizona winning because, well, they've been convincing. And they're even better at home. If they get a quick start again, it could be trouble for the Iggles.

Oh, a couple other thoughts on the Eagles... do you realize McNabb is only 32? Five NFC title games and he's just 32. And the a-hole fans in Philly were ready to run him out of there a month or so ago. Same with Andy Reid. I know the guy mismanages the clock sometimes, but this guy is a consistently good coach. And even though I know they haven't won a Super Bowl, we all know that once you're in the playoffs it's kind of a crapshoot. Getting there time after time is very impressive. And yes, it's difficult for me to compliment/defend a Philly sports team.

This truly could go either way and so I'm just going to go with the team that I think it playing better right now.

Cardinals 27, Eagles 20

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers -- One team I keep getting right is the Ravens. I, like everyone, knew they'd dismantle Noodlearm Pennington and the Dolphins in round one and I also felt confident they could beat the Kerry Collins-led Titans in round two. However, let's all cool it on anointing Joe Flacco the next fricking Joe Montana. He was 9/23 against the Fins and while he was slightly better against Tennessee, the Ravens barely let him throw the ball in the first half (I think he was 3 of 8 at halftime). That can only be done for so long. And yes, I know the Ravens defense has won them those two games, but if Tennessee doesn't turn the ball over so much last weekend, it's a different story. Maybe Flacco wins the game with his arm, but we'll never know because Alge Crumpler and Lendale White fell down and went boom.

And as for the Steelers, well, as I admitted above, they're better than I thought. I was never impressed during the year with them, seeing them lose some critical games and then only winning others (i.e., Dallas) when the other team made a critical error. And the other thing that worries me a bit if I'm a Pitts fan is that they've already beaten the Ravens twice this year. Beating a team three times is very unusual, but I do think that stat is a little overrated. Because it's a long season and they no longer need to beat the Ravens three times -- they need to beat them once. At home.

Are the defenses even? They're close, I'll tell you that. I'd still give the edge to the Ravens and that is significant because as good as Roethlisberger played last week, the Chargers are no where near the Ravens defensively. Could I see Big Ben getting blasted by Lewis or Suggs and giving way to Byron Leftwich? I sure could. And could I see Ed Reed picking apart the Steelers passing game? Yes, again.

But if the Steelers can get some points on the board, I'm just not yet convinced the Ravens can match them. Flacco does have a great arm and I admit plays very well for a rookie. But we haven't seen him win the game for his team yet. If he were playing the Chargers, I'd give it more thought. But against that Steelers D, I just don't know.

Again, I can truly see either team winning and, again, I don't think that's usually the case in the title games. Usually there's a clear favorite. But I guess (hope) that just means we'll have some good games this weekend.

Steelers 16, Ravens 13

Last Week: 1-3

Overall: 3-5

Welcome Back, Keaton!

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