Panthers, Pats headed for Super Bowl

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Despite my reputation for being wrong, I feel the urge to make predictions regarding the National Football League Conference Championship Games scheduled for this weekend.

First and foremost, I must let everyone know these predictions are for entertainment purposes only. Second, I must also admit that my record, when it comes to predictions, is not very good at all. In fact, it is probably well below .500.

First let's take a look at the NFC Championship Game. The Carolina Panthers will play the Philadelphia Eagles at 5:45 p.m. on Sunday. The Panthers topped the St. Louis Rams in a double overtime game despite an injury to running back and former Auburn Tiger Stephen Davis that left him on the sideline for most of the game. The Panthers are a strong team with a solid defense. I expect them to win if they can overcome the fatigue that comes from a double overtime win against St. Louis. The Panthers must also overcome an emotional hangover and the fact that this past Saturday they were on the road.

The Eagles are also a very good team, obviously, or they would not be in the NFC title game. The Eagles have a quarterback in Donovan McNabb that can pass and run. He is a big weapon for their offense. The Eagles also have a strong rushing attack and a strong defense.

Regardless of the Eagles' strengths, especially on offense, I have to predict a Carolina Panther win. The NFC South is a strong division and the Panthers played well enough against teams from that division to make the playoffs.

I predict a Panthers win and a trip to the Super Bowl where they will have the opportunity to become the second consecutive NFC South team to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The AFC Championship Game pits the mighty New England Patriots against the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning on Sunday with kickoff set for 2 p.m. The Patriots won a close game against the Tennessee Titans and should do well against the Colts.

The Pats have a solid offense that can score enough points to win. New England also has a great defense that always seems to find a way to hold offenses in check to allow the offense to put enough points on the scoreboard to get the victory.

The Colts have a very potent offense and if the game were to be played in a dome or in warm weather they would have an edge. The game, however, will be played in New England and the Pats always seem to win in the snow and cold conditions found at Gillette Stadium.

Manning and the Colts, however, were so productive against Kansas City this past weekend that the punter never saw action. Head Coach Tony Dungy is a defensive mastermind who shaped the eventual Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers' stop unit. I would love to see Dungy hold the Vince Lombardi Trophy above his head, but it will not happen this season.

The Pats' defense will hold Manning in check, to some degree, and the cold weather will play a big role. It will be a close game, but the Indy punter will see action and the Patriots will win.

So, I predict the Carolina Panthers will face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII on the field at Reliant Stadium in Houston on February 1. It is too early to make a prediction on which team will win the Super Bowl because my conference championship predictions could, and probably will be, wrong. Also, a key player could be injured in a conference title game that could influence my prediction for the Super Bowl.

There you have my predictions. Remember they are for entertainment purposes only - unless you are Pete Rose.

- John Wallace is the sports editor for, and columnist for, The Andalusia Star-News. He may be contacted via email at: