And then there were four. The first two weeks of the playoff’s are behind us, and four teams survived to make it to Championship Sunday. Green Bay invades Atlanta while Pittsburgh tries to do the almost impossible and beat Tom Brady in January in New England. Here are our predictions.
Green Bay @ Atlanta (-5)
Both home teams are decent favorites this weekend, but the NFC title game is the only one I can see being an upset. Here’s how I picture Vegas sports books who are rooting for the under watching this game:
The over/under on this game is a whopping 60.5, but I’d be shocked if we saw anything less than 70 overall points scored. In Green Bay’s case, last week’s game showed us two things: Aaron Rodgers may be some type of human/sorcerer hybrid and Green Bay’s defense can’t hold a lead. Luckily for Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers will still be there QB Sunday. Unfortunately, they’ll also trot out the same defense, except this time they’re facing Matt Ryan and the Falcons. Ryan will most likely win the MVP this year, and for good reason. He threw for 38 TDs against only 7 interceptions while completing 70% of his passes. That was good for a 117.1 QB rating, which happened to be the best in the league. Last week against a Seattle defense that was 8th against the pass this year, Ryan threw for 338 yards and 3 touchdowns. Green Bay was 31st against the pass this year, and gave up over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns to Dak Prescott last week. Unless GB can force some turnovers, not even Aaron Rodgers will be able to save them.
Which brings me to Aaron Rodgers. While he finally threw an interception last week (breaking his streak of 22 TDs without a pick) he also did this:
— cнiρ вroωn (@ChipBrown) January 16, 2017
He’s playing out of his mind right now, and he’s the only reason the Falcons aren’t favored by double digits in this game. The bad news for Rodgers and the Packers is that he’ll either be without Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams or they’ll be extremely limited. Coach Mike McCarthy said today that if this were a regular season game both guys wouldn’t be playing, which is never a good sign. Also, Atlanta’s defense looked great last week, picking off Russell Wilson twice. If they’re able to force even one turnover from Rodgers, that could be enough to put away the Packers with the way Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense is playing.
Pick: Falcons 45 Green Bay 34
Pittsburgh @ New England (-6)
Isn’t is funny how teams going up against the Patriots always seem to shoot themselves in the foot before the game even starts? Whether it’s Rex Ryan or Richard Sherman, the way other teams behave when they’re playing the Pats is like clock work. Someone opens their mouth and calls out the Patriots, they play the game and Tom Brady and Bill Belichick move on to the next round or win the Super Bowl. The most recent example we have is thanks to Antonio Brown and Mike Tomlin. Brown decided that going on Facebook live during a postgame victory speech by his coach was a good idea, and caught Tomlin calling the Patriots assholes. In the grand scheme of things that’s pretty minor, but do you really want to give the Patriots more ammo heading into this game? You’re already 6 point underdogs, and earlier in the day you watched Brady and Belichick improve to 119-21 at home in their careers, including 16-2 in the playoffs. Maybe shut your mouth and hope Le’Veon Bell can score you a hundred touchdowns. Anyway, here’s what I think Pittsburgh fans will look like after the game:
There are a lot of stats that prove Brady and Belichick’s dominance, especially at home, but it comes down to one simple point: they just don’t lose. Recently, they haven’t even TRAILED IN A GAME. Check out this stat I found on Twitter:
Stat o’ week @NFLResearch:
Patriots haven’t trailed since 11/27. 6 hrs, 1 min, and 56 secs of game time. Longest @NFL streak in 11 years.
— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) January 18, 2017
How insane is that? That’s without Gronk, and without their ‘best defensive player’ Jaimie Collins who they traded away midseason. No matter what happens, the Pats always find a way to win. Most of my friends are Patriots fans, and playing Pittsburgh was their worst case scenario, but that’s only because the other options in the AFC were almost comical. The other four AFC teams that the Pats could’ve played were the Raiders (without Derek Carr), the Dolphins (without Ryan Tannehill), the Chiefs (Andy Reid, play caller. Enough Said) & the Texans. They played the Texans last week and won a very ugly game, but again, they still didn’t trail the entire time. While Pittsburgh might be the toughest matchup for them, they’re only tough compared to the other birthday cake matchups they could’ve had.
As far as Pittsburgh goes, Ben showed last week why his team is so much worse on the road, as he threw for 224 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception. Pittsburgh won that game thanks to Le’Veon Bell, Chris Boswell and Alex Smith being Alex Smith. While Bell has been unstoppable all year, Belichick specializes in taking away your best weapon, and if I’m aware of Ben’s home/road splits, I’m going to assume Belichick is too. He’ll do his best to focus on Bell and make Ben beat him through the air, something Roethlisberger hasn’t proven he can do on the road against a decent defense. Also, if Pittsburgh is banking on Brady playing anywhere near as bad as Alex Smith did, they should forfeit now.
Pick: Patriots 38 Steelers 26
New England Patriot teammates Julian Edelman and Ryan Allen recently got to have a little fun with google glass. Loved the way Julian* showed his little pre-punt routine. Gotta double check the gloves. Amateur move if you don’t. It’s only a matter of time before cameras start getting installed in all the helmets. First it was mic’d up now it will be cam’d up. Seeing Megatron or A.J. Green catch TD passes over everyones head is going to make for great TV.
*I played craps with him one time so I feel that I am on the level or friendship where I can just use his first name. Hope he feels the same way.
A statement from the Patriots on releasing Aaron Hernandez: “At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do.”
Here is the full statement released by the Patriots:
“A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss. Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation. We realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing. We support their efforts and respect the process. At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do.“