After watching all the film and critiquing each team left in the playoffs, Scouts Inc. gives quick previews of the NFC and AFC championship games.
No. 6 Philadelphia at No. 4 Arizona
Eagles' key to victory
The Eagles' defense is playing with a lot of confidence, but the Cardinals are much more balanced than when these teams faced off on Thanksgiving. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson will build his game plan around attacking Cardinals QB Kurt Warner in critical third-down situations. Johnson loves to mix in different sub personnel packages, which will counter the Cardinals' spread offense that features Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and a banged up Anquan Boldin (we expect him to be a game-time decision). The Eagles have a really talented back end led by ball-hawking Pro Bowl CB Asante Samuel and FS Brian Dawkins, who aligns all over the field. No. 3 CB Joselio Hanson aligns in the slot, while Sheldon Brown aligns on the outside in sub. Hanson has the quickness to cover slot receivers, which will be a major key in Johnson's coverage schemes.
Scouts Inc.'s early preview of the AFC Championship Game. Insider
Cardinals' key to victory
The Cardinals have one of the most explosive and complex passing attacks in the NFL, placing a tremendous amount of pressure on opposing defenses, but the sudden emergence of their running game makes them extremely dangerous and very confident heading into the NFC Championship Game. Production from the running back duo of Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower has implemented balance on offense and taken pressure off Warner.
The Cardinals' offensive line averages 315.6 pounds and has taken on the personality of offensive line coach Russ Grimm. The right side of the line has the most beef with the combination of RG Deuce Lutui (6-4, 332 pounds) and RT Levi Brown (6-5, 322 pounds). Lutui's best attribute has been his run blocking, while Brown has been solid with his ability to control the point of attack and set a hard edge on the outside. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley has implemented a power zone-running game that has been utilized in both the Cardinals' 21 (one running back, one fullback, one tight end) and 12 (one running back, two tight ends) personnel groupings. They incorporate a lot of shifts and short motion in their running game, especially with FB Terrelle Smith and TE Ben Patrick. This forces opposing defenses to adjust their alignments within their front seven.
Key matchup: Eagles CB Asante Samuel vs. Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald is an unbelievable playmaker who can attack all levels in the passing game. He has excellent size for his position with rare quickness, agility and body control for a big receiver. He is one of the best in the league at adjusting and reacting to downfield throws with the ability to make extremely difficult catches. He has very good hand-eye coordination, runs good routes, knows how to get open, reads coverages very well, does a great job of settling in the soft spots and is excellent in the red zone. Samuel has excellent playmaking skills and a knack for making big game-changing plays in coverage. He plays with great anticipation, has tremendous reactions, reads plays quickly and jumps patterns as receivers come out of their breaks. He has very good foot agility with an uncanny ability to plant and close with excellent burst. He has shown very good ball skills and plays with confidence when the ball is in the air. This is a great matchup between two premier players.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.