The AFC and NFC Championship games were held Sunday, January 18.
In the NFC Championship, veteran quarterback Kurt Warner and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald led the Arizona Cardinals to a 32-25 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, who mounted a successful second-half comeback against the Cardinals but could not hold onto a 25-24 lead. The Cardinals, who finished the regular season at 9-7, will be making their first ever Super Bowl appearance.
The MVP of Super Bowl XXXIV, Warner is one of only five current players on the Cardinals ever to have played in the Super Bowl. He led the St. Louis Rams to a win in the 1999-2000 game over the Tennessee Titans.
The AFC Championship, held at Pittsburgh’s Heinz field, ended with Pittsburgh earning a second trip to the Super Bowl in four years, after defeating the Baltimore Ravens 23-14. During Sunday’s game, Ravens running back Willis McGahee was carted off the field after being knocked unconscious from a helmet-to-helmet hit from Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark, shortly after McGahee scored his second of two touchdowns in the game. McGahee was kept in the hospital overnight after complaining of severe neck pain but was said to be ‘neurologically intact’ and is expected to fully recover.
The big game will be no shock for many of the Steelers. In fact, there are 20 rostered players from the 2005-2006 winning team, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Hines Ward, who was named MVP of Super Bowl XL. Ward, however, is listed as ‘questionable’ for the game with a knee sprain. A confident Ward has made it clear to anyone who will listen that he will be ready and able to play and has no intention of missing any part of the game.
Two quarterbacks with Super Bowl rings already on their fingers. One team with overwhelmingly more Super Bowl experience. One team who has a score to settle after constantly hearing they don’t have what it takes to win. Who will come out on top?
Kick off to Super Bowl XLIII at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium is scheduled for 6:28 pm on February 1.