Shanoff's W.U.C.: Root Cards, Pick Eagles

Today's Calls: Eagles vs. Cards, Ravens vs. Steelers, Percy Harvin vs. C.J. Spiller, Mark Sanchez vs. Pete Carroll, Bulls vs. LeBron, Michael Young vs. Derek Jeter, Bill Belichick vs. Alex Trebek and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: Who should you be rooting for, if you have no personal stake in either NFL conference-title game Sunday? ↵

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↵Root for the Cards if: You have any sense of imagination or wonder left as a sports fan. This is arguably the worst franchise in the modern history of the NFL, one crazy home game away from reaching the ultimate moment in sports. How can you not want to experience the novelty? ↵

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↵Root for the Eagles if: You want to see the team playing the best of any remaining in the playoffs to advance. Plus: If you like your city to go celebrations crazy, wait until you see Philadelphians — still hung over from the Phillies — celebrate their first Super Bowl championship. ↵

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↵Root for the Steelers if: You think that regular-season success should matter at all; the Steelers had the best full-season record of any team remaining. It's always cool to see a home team clinch a spot in a league's championship game. ↵

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↵Root for the Ravens if: You really don't want to have to deal with the arrogance of Steelers fans for another two weeks. Meanwhile, Eagles-Ravens — two No. 6-seeds each winning three straight playoff games on the road to reach the Super Bowl — is the final evolution of the NFL's mission for parity. ↵

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↵Picks: Eagles, Steelers. ↵

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↵NFL Coaching Carousel: Lions hire Jim Schwartz. This is the best thing to happen to the Lions franchise since it drafted Barry Sanders. Schwartz may be the smartest coach in the NFL — if anything can turn around the Lions quickly, it is a new and fundamental commitment to statistical analysis. ↵

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↵NFL Draft: Percy Harvin is leaving behind Florida, Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes and a repeat national championship for a place in the first round of the NFL draft. And I don't blame him one bit: His history of heel injuries means that he has to get his pro money while he can. If healthy, Harvin (and his 4.3-40, 400-lb-benching awesomeness) can be a revelation in the NFL. Where Reggie Bush has fizzled, Harvin will thrive — mainly because Harvin is a natural WR who can do other things; Bush was a RB who had to become a WR because he couldn't play RB. ↵

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↵Mark Sanchez going pro, too: Only Matt Stafford will likely be ranked higher among QBs in the 2009 Draft, and given the recent success of USC QBs in the NFL (Carson Palmer, Matt Cassel ... um, no, not Matt Leinart), the USC "education" seems to translate. (Is Pete Carroll really upset? Then stop recruiting future NFLers.) ↵

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↵Coming back to CFB: C.J. Spiller, who should be considered the top RB in the country heading into next season. You know how players' moms always tell them they want to go back to school and the players go pro anyway? Well, Spiller's mom wanted him to turn pro — and he is going back to school anyway. ↵

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↵NBA Instant History: The Bulls may not be going to the playoffs this year, but turning back LeBron and the Cavs in OT to avoid being swept for the season series may qualify as the biggest, most playoff-ish game that Chicago will play this year. ... Meanwhile, if you had to pick a player to be on your team in OT, doesn't Chauncey Billups get a strong look? (Game-high 26, including 5 in Denver's OT win over the Suns.) ↵

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↵Cuban Watch: Given that the Mavs owner was sure the NBA would punish J.R. Smith, his reaction to the NBA not punishing Smith should be just as entertaining as his initial fit with Smith. ↵

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↵CBB Mania: Hey, look — UNC finally won an ACC game. ... Was Arizona State overrated, or was DeMar DeRozan and USC just waiting to go off on someone. ... Must-Read: Mike DeCourcy on UCLA. ... Weekend Preview: Wow, four games that could be a "headliner" (Pitt at L'ville, G'town at Duke, Notre Dame at Syracuse, Wake at Clemson.) ↵

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↵MLB Hot Stove: Michael Young WILL move to 3B after all. He probably recognized he was losing the perception battle over his position change, and — short of the Rangers trading him — he was going to have to move, anyway. I'm sure he will remain plenty bitter about it. ↵

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↵But to his credit, Young is more of a team player than Derek Jeter, who has a LOT more juice than Young does and used every ounce of it to ensure he wouldn't have to give up his spot at SS for A-Rod, despite the fact that A-Rod is a vastly superior fielder and it would have been better for the team. ↵

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↵Meanwhile, kudos to the Red Sox on locking up Kevin Youkilis for 4Y/$41M — a good deal for one of the best all-around players in the A.L.: No. 4 in OPS and an excellent fielder at multiple infield positions. ↵

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↵Pop Culture: Seen the clip from "Jeopardy" that tweaks Bill Belichick as a sore loser from the Super Bowl loss to the Giants? The exact "answer" quote: "One second from defeat in 2008 Super Bowl, this losing coach threw a hissy fit and stalked off the field." Ouch. ↵

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↵The Last Word: Mack Brown wanted to vote Texas No. 1, but didn't realize he could "pull a Kyle Whittingham" and actually do it. For college football's most shameless team lobbyist, this qualifies as irony. ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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