« Lasers? To the Moon? | Main | Congratulations to the Seahawks »

Carolina to the Super Bowl?

Tomorrow afternoon, the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Denver Broncos for the AFC Championship. My hunch is that Pittsburgh will win that game, despite having to travel to the thin air of Denver. Why? Because they're playing like a team that wants to win more than any other:

The Steelers sat 7-5, the losers of three in a row entering their Week 14 showdown with 9-3 Chicago at Heinz Field. One more loss and Pittsburgh was essentially eliminated from the highly-competitive AFC playoff race. But the Steelers beat the Bears 21-9, starting what has become a six-game winning streak with their season on the line every week.

Pittsburgh has outscored its six opponents 167-68 in that six-game span, and picked up more confidence and sense of purpose with every subsequent victory. The Steelers... are playing their best when it matters most.

Now to the other game, the Carolina Panthers versus the Seattle Seahawks.

Seattle has a number of advantages in this game. The Seahawks have the NFL MVP, Shaun Alexander, undeniably a great running back, while as a result of injuries, the Panthers have a third-string running back, Nick Goings. The Seahawks will be playing at home, which may be one of the toughest places for visiting teams to play in the NFL, thanks to rabid fans and the acoustic engineers who designed the roof of Qwest Field. The Seahawks had a bye week and so are more rested than the Panthers.

And yet the Panthers will win. Why? Here are some statistics to think about:

  • Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme's playoff record: 5-1, with the only loss to the New England Patriots, a game in which he nonetheless performed brilliantly.
  • Delhomme's quarterback rating in the postseason: 108.4, the highest in NFL history (ahead of Bart Starr, Joe Montana, Ken Anderson, and Kurt Warner).
  • Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith's performance against the league's best defense, the Chicago Bears: 218 yards (fourth best in NFL playoff history) and two touchdowns.
  • Panthers running back Nick Goings' 100-yard games in 2004: five out of seven started.
  • Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's playoff record: 1-2.
  • Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander's playoff performances to date: 2004, 45 yards against the Green Bay Packers; 2005, 40 yards against the St. Louis Rams; 2006, 9 yards against the Washington Redskins (before leaving the game with a concussion).
As one of my favorite football writers, Paul Zimmerman, wrote in picking the Panthers to win tomorrow:
Spirit, fire and inner toughness will carry this team of destiny all the way.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Post a comment