It has been a pretty good week for basketball in the world of Frank the Tank. The Illini beat Michigan for program win number 1,600 and face the next test on their brutal start to the Big Ten season by heading to East Lansing to play Michigan State (which has improved over the past month to shape up into the conference’s one true national title contender). Frankly, it’s a bit much to believe that Illinois will come out of there with a win, but I actually have a pretty good feeling about the game overall (particularly with how they played Purdue on the road in the Big Ten opener). Meanwhile, the Bulls continue to confound me by beating probably the best team in the NBA in the Cavs (and without question the best player in the league in LeBron James – the man has been maniacal on the floor this year). I’m in the process of putting together a complete analysis of the Bulls roster (hint: I like one guy a lot and the rest can pretty much suck it), so you’ll be seeing that come through over the next week. (At least Vinny Del Negro has figured out one correct move in his player rotation, although me and 99.9% of other Bulls fans could have told him this back in training camp in October.) In the meantime, here are some quick picks for NFL’s conference championship games (home teams in CAPS):
- NFC Championship Game: Philadelphia Eagles (-4) over PHOENIX CARDINALS – I’ve done pretty well with the underdogs so far this postseason, but it has got to end at some point. While I’m not enthralled at all about the prospect of taking a road favorite of over a field goal, it’s tough for me to fathom Philly handing over a multitude of turnovers and allowing Larry Fitzgerald run amok in the same manner as the Buzzsaw’s last two opponents. The question is really whether the Eagles will provide its fans with a soul-crushing bombing this weekend or in the Super Bowl. I’m thinking that it’s going to be the latter.
- AFC Championship Game: PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-6) over Baltimore Ravens – I have a problem with the Steelers having to lay 6 points against an all-world defense, but if the general rule of gambling is that you shouldn’t bet on an underdog that you don’t believe you can win, then I’m for Pittsburgh all the way. If the crowd noise at Heinz Field is as loud as it appeared to be last week (even my wife mentioned how great the Steelers fans were, although I wonder if this might partially due to the sound technicians at CBS Sports since the crowd noise on their SEC telecasts seem to have the same prominence), then I have a hard time believing the Ravens will be able to do much considering that they were still in prime position to lose last week even with every single possible thing going their way. For as great as the Ravens defense might be, I still think that the Steelers can run the ball and can open up the passing game a bit with Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward. On the other hand, the Steelers have almost as good of a defense at the Ravens and get to face a rookie quarterback in Joe Flacco in a hostile environment. I like the Steelers to cover here.
Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 3-1
Playoffs Overall: 5-2
Bears Games for the Season: 3-10-1
Overall Season: 26-24-3
(Image from Chicago Tribune)