Conference Championship Weekend
Gregg Easterbrook points out
that Conference Championships do not always go to the home teams; over the last 14 years the local teams have gone just 16-12. However, that masks what Easterbrook refers to as the Pennsylvania curse: during that time, the two PA (Pittsburgh & Philadelphia) teams have gone 1-5 at home in the Conference Championship game. And of course, that is relevant because this weekend the two games are being played in the Keystone State.
I'm with the oddsmakers on this one; New England seems likely to win, and Philly should finally get over the hump this year and make it to the Super Bowl. But I would caution that both games are really coin flips. Pittsburgh has beaten New England this season already, and Corey Dillon wouldn't have made that much of a difference, given that the Steelers jumped out to an early 21-3 lead and the Patriots were forced to play comeback football.
The Eagles will win if they can hold the Falcons' Michael Vick in check. Vick has not shown much ability as a passer (his passer rating was tied with Tim Rattay's), but he's clearly the most dangerous scrambler the league has ever seen. I agree with the folks who like to say that kind of running is not "sustainable"; sooner or later Vick will get hurt again and everybody will question Jim Mora, Jr.'s judgment in letting him run freely. But until that happens, Vick is going to cause havoc around the NFL. I would not be surprised at all if he (or running back Warrick Dunn) turns out to be the difference in this game. If Philly is going to win, they'd better take the early lead and force Vick to beat them with his arm and not his legs.