So it is down to this; three birds and a 'burgh. The most interesting part of the upcoming conference title games is that three of the four quarterbacks have major experience on this type of stage and one is a rookie. I've always thought that experience is a little overrated. After all those with experience had to do it the first time once, but let's take a look at the four quarterbacks' resumes.
Donovan McNabb: This is his fifth NFC title game. How does this compare with some of the great QB's of the Super Bowl area? Joe Montana played in six. Troy Aikman, four. The difference between these two men and McNabb is obviously the rings. So how does the experience of losing 3 of 4 of these games and the failure in the Super Bowl affect him? Does it make him loose or tight? Confident or doubtful? The truth will be in the performance.
Ben Roethlisberger: This is title game number three for Roethlisberger. He has one win and one loss, but he does have the super hardware. I believe that will make him much looser than McNabb, but no less hungry. He has mixed results in important spots like this. Though he won a Super Bowl with the Steelers, he did not play great. Will we get Big Ben or Bad Ben vs. the Ravens? I think he needs to play conservatively against the Baltimore D. He should pick his spots to go down field, but if he has to take a sack, he should take it and not risk the fumbles that he too often gives up.
Kurt Warner: This is Warner's third title game. His record in the previous two is 2-0. He has two Super Bowl appearances with one win. I've always kind of thought of him as Brett Favre lite. He is a high risk high reward type of player although he's always been way more accurate than Favre. Also, his tendency is fumbles, not int's like Favre. Still somehow he's the guy I trust most out of all of the QB's playing Sunday. It helps that he has the best targets, but he just seems the most unflappable to me.
Joe Flacco: The intriguing thing about Flacco is that although he hasn't been very accurate or thrown for a boatload of yards, but he hasn't had one negative play in playoffs, not one. No fumbles, no int's, no sacks. And in spite of his relative inaccuracy, when he has needed to stick a throw, he sticks it. Think of his TD pass last against the Titans and the third down conversion that led to the game winning field goal. We'll see if he can be protected against the Pittsburgh blitz and make those throws again.
Finally, here is a great article that articulates exactly what I've been thinking about the problem with the NFL playoff system in a way I never figured out how to do.