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Jan 24, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; A general view of the NFC Championship logo before the game between the Carolina Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship football game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
AFC and NFC Conference Championship
NFL: AFC and NFC Conference Championship Preview
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Last week was what we thought it would be. The Saturday games were a little tiring and boring, while the Sunday games were the type of games that would make anyone a football fan. This week has the look and feel of more of the same. In the NFC, the Green Bay Packers will bring the Aaron Rodgers show to Atlanta to face the Falcons. Then in the late game, the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to New England to square off against the Patriots in the AFC Championship. Both matchups should come close to the excitement of last week, so without further ado, let’s get right into the previews of the AFC and NFC Conference Championship games.
Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons (-4.5)
Last week’s game between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys was one of the more exciting games you will ever see. Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers is playing on a level by himself over the past two months and made some throws that no one in the league can make. Jordy Nelson looks doubtful to play this weekend. However, TE Jared Cook and WR Randall Cobb are both raising their level. This is a team that looks like they will force you to score almost 40 to win.
The Falcons took care of business at home and now will face the hottest team in the sport. The defense was able to shut down Seattle RB Thomas Rawls and bother QB Russell Wilson. Although Seattle still had some chances, the Falcons offense is also clicking right now. Atlanta QB, MVP favorite, Matt Ryan along with RBs Devonte Freeman and Tevin Coleman are giving defense fits and I don’t think this week will be much different. The Falcons plan to shut down the Georgia Dome in style, with a National Football Conference Championship.
The over/under on this game is currently set at 60, which is the highest point total projection that I can remember for a playoff game. These are two of the best offenses in the league to go with two defenses that aren’t exactly the 85 bears. Falcons are surprisingly the solid favorite in this game. In terms of covering the spread, I think Packers score enough to cover the spread. In terms of winning the game, it’s very hard to say at this point, Aaron Rodgers can’t carry this team to the Superbowl. In what will be a real life video game, I’m going with the player I consider the best QB in the sport.
Prediction: Green Bay 34, Atlanta 30
Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots (-5.5)
The Steelers found a way to get by the Kansas City Chiefs without scoring a TD. Pittsburgh kicker Chris Boswell booted six FGs to push the Steelers into the American Football Conference Championship game. This game was better than the score and fell under the radar after having to follow up the Green Bay and Dallas game. Kansas City played the perfect bend, but don’t break, defense, but their offense was invisible for the most part. Don’t let last week cloud your judgment, not only will Pittsburgh have to score more to win this week, they will score more because the Patriots defense is not as good as Kansas City’s defense, in my opinion.
The Patriots did what they were supposed to last week. Despite turning the ball over more than a few times, they face the worst QB performance in recent memory and scored a couple late to make it look bad. The Patriots have to play better this week to beat Pittsburgh, but just as I said with the Steelers, don’t let last week’s performance fool you. New England QB Tom Brady was not himself last week, but Dion Lewis looks like he could be an x-factor this week, especially on special teams.
Since 2003, there have only been four QBs to represent the AFC in the Superbowl. Those QBs are Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco, and the two QBs in this game, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady. Obviously these QBs have been here before and know how to win big games. There will be no fear in this game and I think it will be a back and forth until the end. I think the Steelers have more offensive weapons and the best WR and RB on the field in RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown. Because of this, I give them the slight edge to come up with a big play late to win the game.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 31, New England 26
This is the weekend that everyone has been waiting for. After Sunday, we will realize who will be playing for the #1 prize in the sport, the Lombardi Trophy. All four teams have an unquestioned leader, loads of talent, and a coach that is not afraid to pull the trigger. It would be hard for me to believe that any of these teams get blown out due to the nature of the franchises. When it’s all said and done, I expect Superbowl LI will be one of the highest scoring, and well played Superbowls in recent memory. As for this week, it’s the last full Sunday of football, so sit back relax, and enjoy the AFC and NFC Conference Championship games.