CBSSports.com pro football writers Pete Prisco and Clark Judge face off weekly throughout the season.
|Pete Prisco||Clark Judge|
|Where will the Ravens-Steelers game be decided?|
|I'm going back to what I said last week: The Ravens corners are beatable. They were against the Titans, just as I expected. Tennessee hit some passes on them, but fumbled away scoring chances. The Titans had open receivers and they don't have the group of pass catchers the Steelers do. I think Santonio Holmes is the X-factor in this game. We know Hines Ward will get a lot of attention -- especially since the Ravens don't like him -- but I think Holmes is emerging as the Steelers' best receiver. His ability to stretch the field will help open things up for Ward and Heath Miller. The key will be the protection, as it always is against the Ravens, but the Steelers line did a nice job against San Diego last week. I think they do it here as well. So the Ravens corners get exposed. Fabian Washington and Samari Rolle have rough days. Holmes is the man who does the most damage against them.||Where it always is in Pittsburgh -- up front. The Steelers' offensive line will determine what happens here. A week ago, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wasn't harried or hurried, and the Steelers coasted past San Diego. I can't imagine that happening again ... not with Baltimore's Rex Ryan pulling the levers. The Ravens will attack, and if the Steelers' offensive line holds up, Big Ben can poke holes in the Baltimore secondary. But Roethlisberger was sacked three times the first time these two met, and he was sacked three times in Round 2. It's not just the sacks that beat up a quarterback; it's the hits he takes after he throws, and Roethlisberger will absorb plenty. I don't expect Pittsburgh to run on Baltimore because nobody but the Giants has. So that means the heat is on the passing attack, which puts the pressure on the Steelers' pass protection. It hasn't been good this year; it better be on Sunday.|
|Should the Chargers start looking for another running back?|
|Absolutely. After two seasons that ended with two separate injuries, there's no telling how much LaDainian Tomlinson has left on the tire treads. With backup Darren Sproles set to become an unrestricted free agent, it makes this even more pressing of a need. I would re-sign Sproles, but I don't think he can be a feature back. He's too little. He doesn't break tackles inside. I would sign him to a relatively cheap deal and then draft a back in the second or third round. If this past season taught us anything it's that you can find backs; look how many rookies put up big numbers. I would keep Tomlinson for another year, but spot in Sproles more and hope my rookie could give me 10-12 carries. Then in 2010, it would be bye-bye time for Tomlinson and the rookie would take over. The NFL is cruel to runners. When it goes, it goes fast. And it looks like Tomlinson's tank is below three-quarters full.||Yes. Yes. Yes. LaDainian Tomlinson turns 30 this year, which is when most running backs start to fade. And he's starting to fade. His numbers declined across the board this season, and while he's better than most backs out there he's not the running back he was two or three years ago ... which means the arrow is pointing down. He has taken so many hits over his career (2,657 to be exact), and those hits are beginning to take their toll. He no longer runs away from defenders. He doesn't have the explosion he once did. His yards per carry were the lowest since his rookie year. And he finished the last two playoffs on the bench, sidelined because of injury. It's that last item that is the most disturbing. L.T. is a tough guy, but the injuries are a telltale sign that he's winding down. So draft a back and start grooming him to take Tomlinson's place. The end is near.|
|Would the Cardinals be good or bad for Super Bowl interest?|
|They're great for the Super Bowl for this reason: It gives every team hope. There are fans from 28 teams sitting at home right now, thinking they can be next year's Cardinals. It can happen. If it happens in Arizona, it can happen anywhere. Plus, they haven't won a title since the franchise was in Chicago. That's two cities ago. They have an aging quarterback on his last legs trying to win a second Super Bowl. It's also good when a league laughingstock is trying to make good on a title. It's also nice to see a team that isn't afraid to throw the football on early downs. So, yes, it's good for the Super Bowl if they get there. It might not be from a ticket standpoint. It's a long trip from Arizona and the Eagles would sell more tickets. But first-time Super teams are always fun to see.||I can't imagine they will cause TV ratings to spike, but they are good for the game, and here's why: Fresh faces, fresh stories. Sure, people know about Kurt Warner and Edgerrin James, but how about Karlos Dansby or Larry Fitzgerald or Adrian Wilson? Or how about coach Ken Whisenhunt? It's time we read about someone other than Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Plus, it's the feel-good story of the year. The Cardinals weren't supposed to make the playoffs because the Cardinals never make the playoffs, and having them in Super Bowl XLIII proves that, yes, Virginia, anything is possible. The Warner story is compelling, no matter how many times it is told. Wilson is a star safety who deserves to have national attention. James missed out on a Super Bowl with Indianapolis, and Fitzgerald is the best receiver in the game. Remember, change is good.|