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The Northerner

Pats, Eagles look for Super Bowl matchup

Dominick Wise

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Championship: Indianapolis Colts at the New England Patriots, 3:00 p.m.

Could this game come down to another goal-line stand? We will see this Sunday afternoon. On Nov. 30 the Patriots dominated the Colts in a 38-34 win, but Peyton Manning rallied the Colts from a 21 points deficit. The Patriots led at halftime 31-10. With 14 seconds to play, Manning led the Colts down to the Patriots’ one-yard line. On fourth and goal, instead of calling one of his famous audibles, Manning decided to hand the ball off to Edgerrin James, who was stopped short by Willie McGinest (last week’s playoff defensive player of the week). Manning and the Colts offense are hot this postseason. They are so hot that they haven’t had to punt in their two games. So far, Manning has completed 44 of 56 passes for 681 yards and eight touchdowns. In last week’s playoff game against the Chiefs, Manning torched the Chiefs’ secondary for 304 yards passing and Edgerrin ran all over the Chiefs for 125 yards. On the other hand, the Patriots are just as hot as the Colts right now. The Patriots have won 13 games in a row and have improved their home record to 9-0. They beat the Titans last week 17-14 in one of the coldest games ever to be played. The temperature was two degrees with a wind chill of negative 11, but don’t tell that to the Patriots. They’re used to winning in frigid temperatures at Foxboro. The biggest question this week is: how can you stop Manning? I think the Patriots can do it. There defense is one of the best and so is their secondary – just ask Steve McNair. Bill Belichick will have a defensive scheme ready to stop Manning. This will be game of field position. It will be somewhat high scoring. Manning is on fire and so are the Pats. Which team will cool down? I think neither will, but I’d like Belichick and the Pats defense to come up with a last-minute turnover and prevail. I know Manning will get in his 300 yards passing, but I think Edgerrin James will struggle with running the ball. The Colts need all three of their big play threats to produce in this game.

Prediction: Patriots 24 Colts 21

NFC Championship: Carolina Panthers at the Philadelphia Eagles, 6:45 p.m.

This game is a rematch of a week 13 meeting wherein the Eagles won 25-16. The Panthers should have won that game, but their usually reliable kicker missed three field goals. Will this be the game in which John Kasay finds his redemption? We will see this Sunday evening. The biggest question in this game is will Stephen Davis play? If so, how much, or how much will his injured quadriceps take a toll on his performance? Another question surrounding this game is will the Eagles star cornerback, Troy Vincent, be able to play or will his hip injury cost him to sit out another game? Both teams need these two players to play. Stephen Davis is 80 percent of the Panthers offense. The Panthers love to run the ball and control the time of possession. Their offense might not feature a lot of superstar players and may be boring to many, but it gets the job done (just as the Cowboys and the Rams). The Eagles better hope they get Vincent back, because his replacement, Sheldon Brown, got torched by Brett Favre and Robert Ferguson. If Vincent can’t go, you better believe the Panther’s coach, John Fox, will concoct ways to get their star playmaker Steve Smith on him. If that happens in this game, it might be a long day for the Eagles. You can never count out the legs of Donovan McNabb and the Eagles. He rushed for more than 100 yards against the Packers last Sunday. If the Panthers want to win this game, they better have someone spying McNabb. The key to victory for the Panthers is to run and pound Stephen Davis between the tackles and utilize Steve Smith in the passing game. The Eagles weakness on defense is stopping the run, so look for Davis or his backup, Deshaun Foster, to carry the ball 25 to 30 times. Jake Delhomme needs to play a mistake free game to win, because he almost caused the Panthers a loss last week in St. Louis. I think the Eagles will be ready for this game, simply because this is their third year in a row in the NFC championship. I don’t see them losing a third one. I think their experience in the big game will lead them to victory along with the legs of Donovan McNabb. This game will also be a game of field position. I think Eagles Kicker David Akers will be the hero for the second week in a row.

Prediction: Eagles 20 Panthers 17

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Pats, Eagles look for Super Bowl matchup