Steel City Sports Championship Extravaganza

<b>Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles</b><br><br> <b>Tennessee Titans at Oakland Raiders</b>

National Football Conference Championship Teams Stats
TeamSeedOpponentScoreLeading Passer Leading ReceiverLeading RusherNet Passing Net RushingSacksInts.
Philadelphia Eagles 1stAtlanta20-6Donovan McNabb, 20/30, 247, 1TD, 0INTs James Thrash, 2/77, 1TDDuce Staley, 18/63, 0TDs 2619332
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2ndSan Francisco31-6Brad Johnson, 15/31, 196, 2TDs, 1INT Keyshawn Johnson, 5/85, 0TDsMike Alstott, 17/60, 2TDs 1666233

American Football Conference Championship Teams Stats
TeamSeedOpponentScoreLeading Passer Leading ReceiverLeading RusherNet Passing Net RushingSacksInts.
Oakland Raiders 1stNY Jets30-10Rich Gannon,
20/30, 283, 2TDs, 1INT
Jerry Porter, 6/123, 1TDCharlie Garner, 21/93, 0TDs 27212732
Tennessee Titans 2ndPittsburgh34-31Steve McNair, 27/44, 338, 2TDs, 2INTs Frank Wycheck, 10/123, 1TDEddie George, 15/33, 1TD 3319911

NFC Championship Game

#2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at #1 Philadelphia Eagles
1:00 pm at Veterans Stadium
Weather Forecast: Partly Cloudy. High in the low 30's. Low in the low 20's.

The Buccaneers can win if:

  1. The defense forces Donovan McNabb into his 3rd and 4th reads.
  2. The ground game gets at least 120 yards combined from Mike Alstott and Michael Pittman.
  3. They force the Eagles to run to the outside instead of up the gut.

The Eagles can win if:

  1. Duce Staley is relentlessly pounded down the Bucs' throat.
  2. They jump out to an early 10-point lead and the let the crowd take over.
  3. The offense eliminates turnovers that could let the Bucs back into the game.

Key Match-up: Donovan McNabb vs. Derrick Brooks.

Outlook: The final game in Veterans Stadium is also the final game of the year for the Eagles. Jon Gruden and the Buccaneers finally get to the Super Bowl. And wait till you see who they will meet.

AFC Championship Game

#2 Tennessee Titans at #1 Oakland Raiders
4:30 pm at Oakland Memorial Coliseum Weather Forecast: Partly cloudy. High in the low 60's. Low in mid-40's.

The Titans can win if:

  1. The offense is turnover-free for the game.
  2. The defensive line collapses the pocket consistently on Rich Gannon's deep drops.
  3. Eddie George regains his Pro-Bowl form.

The Raiders can win if:

  1. Gannon remains patient and takes his shots when they're open.
  2. Charlie Garner is worked into the offense like last week.
  3. The offence forces the Titans to play catch-up all day.

Key Match-up: Steve McNair vs. Oakland's secondary.

Outlook: Just Win Baby. The Raiders have too many weapons and too much fire-power for the Titans in what should be a classic AFC Championship match.

Championship Notes

  • The NFC game will be the final game at Veterans Stadium. It will also be the final game at a stadium with that horrid cookie cutter shape and awful Astroturf surface. It's truly the end of an era.
  • Parity Strikes. The last time the #1 and # 2 seeds from both conferences advanced to the championship games in the same year was 1991, when #1 Buffalo played #2 Denver in the AFC and #1 Washington played #2 Detroit in the NFC.
  • Parity Strikes Again. The last time both #1 teams advanced to the Super Bowl was 1993, when Buffalo and Dallas advanced.
  • We can only imagine what would have happened if Rod Woodson had decided to stay with the Steelers as a free safety. He'd probably be too expensive at this point, but it's nice to dream. We'd also still have at least one legitimate playmaker on defense. And don't tell me Kendrell Bell is a legitimate playmaker...yet.
  • While many national media types are lambasting Cowher and the Steelers for their whining this past weekend, no one can argue that with the courageous, tough-nosed game they played on Saturday and the new passing attack, if the Steelers can combine the two next season on a consistent basis (and I'm betting they can and will), many will consider this team a Super Bowl favorite again, perhaps more than this past season. But all should agree that two things must happen first: Bettis must reduce his weight and the secondary must be upgraded.
  • Don't take anything away from Steve McNair. He's the toughest quarterback in the AFC and he gives the Steelers more fits than any other quarterback in the conference.
  • I'm pushing big time for a Browns-Steelers Monday Night game next year. ABC needs to have more rivalry games next season. "Pittsburgh-Indianapolis and Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay" doesn't sound nearly as exciting as "Pittsburgh-Cleveland and Tampa Bay-Green Bay".
  • Expect the Steelers to get 2 Monday Night games and 2 Sunday Night games. And a ton more national Sunday exposure due to the premiere schedule.
  • If Tennessee wins the Super Bowl, here's hoping that they'll play Pittsburgh on Monday Night to start the season.
  • Considering how San Francisco rolled over throughout the game, the Jets lost their composure in the second half, and Michael Vick was overmatched, the Steelers looked to be the 5th in a 5-team race for the Super Bowl.
  • Are you going to bet against Oakland this year? Don't expect them to pull a Pittsburgh and blow another championship game.
  • This is the first time in 4 years that the former AFC Central division has had a team make the AFC Championship game.

--The Steel Apple

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