No more room for NFL errors

Repeating championship success is an arduous task for any individual or team. And repeating my success in predicting the NFL playoffs a year ago is proving to be almost mission impossible.
My instincts failed me in both NFC match-ups last weekend (yeah, like you knew Carolina was going to beat St. Louis in double overtime under the dome) and I’m now at a less than stellar 5-3 so far after an 8-3 performance last year.
One more misstep and I’m bound for mediocrity (some say I reached that realm long ago, but we’ll get into that some other time).
NFC
•Carolina (13-5) at Philadelphia (14-3)
So much for the Green Bay Packers—destiny’s supposed darlings. True, they came close, but Brett Favre looked like he was trying to complete a pass to his deceased father when he launched that “lame duck” to the heavens in overtime Sunday evening.
Now the Eagles are halfway to a Super Bowl championship I can’t even begin to consider being a reality, and this time there’s no high-powered St. Louis Rams or defensively dominant Tampa Bay Buccaneers to stop them like the previous two seasons.
Selling the Panthers short after the miracle they pulled off in St. Louis last Saturday would be unwise, but Carolina doesn’t seem like a team that could go from 1-15 two seasons ago to a Super Bowl appearance this time around.
Philadelphia’s defensive co-ordinator Jim Johnson will gladly accept the challenge of shutting down Panthers’ speedster receiver Steve Smith, which will be made much easier if Carolina running back Stephen Davis’ quad injury keeps him out of Sunday’s game.
The Panthers have done well to get this far, but Philly’s been champing at the bit to get into “The Big Game” for three years now. On home turf, it will be hard to deny them a ticket to Houston.
Eagles 20, Panthers 13
AFC
•Indianapolis (13-5) at New England (15-2)
Peyton Manning has been other-worldly in his two playoff starts for the Colts, with more than 800 yards passing, eight touchdowns, and no interceptions.
His offence is clicking on all cylinders, possibly like never before. Everyone from Edgerrin James to Tom Lopienski—a guy who had never even touched the ball on offence all season until his touchdown catch Sunday afternoon against the Chiefs—is contributing to the cause.
But solving Denver and Kansas City was one story. The wrecking ball that is the Patriots’ defence, formulated by the incredible mastermind tandem of head coach Bill Belichick and defensive co-ordinator Romeo Crennel, is completely another.
New England quarterback Tom Brady certainly can punch holes in the defence of Indianapolis, and the cold weather will cause the dome-dwelling Colts concerns—whether they admit it or not.
The bottom line is, unless you’re a bookie with some unbelievable inside information on some weakness the Patriots possess, betting against a team on a 13-game winning streak playing on its home field with a Super Bowl berth on the line would not be one of your wiser moves.
If you believe in sticking with the team on a roll, nobody’s been rolling like New England.
Patriots 27, Colts 17
• • •
Congratulations to Jordan Davis and Michael McCaig of the Fort Frances Taggs Bantam ‘AA’ hockey team, who made the final roster of the Manitoba ‘AAA’ Hockey Polar Ice squad.
The team was selected from two separate tryout camps in Winnipeg and Brandon, with more than 60 players born in 1990 and 1991 on hand.
The Polar Ice crew’s final destination will be Sapporo, Japan for an international tournament in August.
• • •
Another salute goes out to local bowlers Ashley LaFreniere (Senior girls), Jon McCoy (Junior boys), and Joey Ballan (Bantam boys), who advanced to the provincial round of the YBC “4 Steps to Stardom” singles competition last weekend in Atikokan.
The trio now moves on to Sudbury in March, with a chance to advance to the national showdown in Newfoundland and Labrador later in this spring.
• • •
The Sunset Country Snowmobile Club will hold a general public meeting tomorrow (Thursday) at 7 p.m. at the Little Beaver Snow Park lodge (just off McIrvine Road near the landfill site).
Mayor Dan Onichuk and local gas station operators have bee invited to the meeting, which will look at issues such as the number of snowmobilers choosing to cross the border to partake in their favourite wintertime recreational activity.
Parents attending the meeting are encouraged to bring along their children, who will be allowed sliding privileges on the facility’s snow hill for no charge during the evening.

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