Keys to conference title games

Rookie Ben Roethlisberger is a key for both the Steelers and Patriots on Sunday, as Michael Vick is a key for both the Falcons and Eagles.

Originally Published: January 20, 2005
By Joe Theismann | ESPN Insider
ESPN's Joe Theismann, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, is no stranger to conference championship games. As Sunday's games loom, he offers three keys for each of the four teams vying for a Super Bowl berth.

When I prepared for a conference championship game, I didn't want to come into the contest all hyped up. I wanted to come in under control and work myself into the game. It's important to let the game come to you instead of forcing the issue.

I didn't want to come out of the locker room roaring and flying and screaming and yelling — because after the initial rush you experience an adrenaline depletion and your legs become like lead pipes you have to drag around, and it might take you an entire quarter to recover.

Weather could be a factor in Sunday's conference championship games, mainly in the NFC title game. The forecast in Philadelphia is for snow, which raises questions for the Falcons: Are they truly a dome team? Or can they play in the elements? That's an X-factor in this game. If the field is sloppy, Atlanta QB Michael Vick will need to be productive in the passing game, because he won't be able to use his quickness as much.

In the AFC game, both the Steelers and Patriots are equipped to handle difficult weather conditions, so whatever the weather in Pittsburgh, it shouldn't be a factor. I've always believed that a sloppy field is an advantage for the players on offense, because they know where they want to go.

Now, my three keys for each team:

Joe Theismann

Football analyst
Former college and pro football star Joe Theismann has served as an analyst for ESPN's Sunday Night Football since 1988. He also is frequently heard on ESPN Radio, regularly contributes to and has contributed to the NFL Draft.