And then there were four, and you have the cream of the crop. Three of the four teams playing have multiple Lombardi Trophies and the AFC title tilt have the most appearances in the conference championship game. This is the big one before the big one. Conference supremacy is on the line and the winner makes the plans for two weeks in Houston. Odds provided by Westgate Sportsbook via ESPN
NFL SCHEDULE – CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY
Sunday, January 22
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Packers (12-6 #4 Seed, NFC North Champions)@ Atlanta Falcons (12-5 #2 Seed, NFC South Champions)
Georgia Dome, Atlanta 3:05 (FOX)
Falcons by 5
How They Got Here: Packers defeated #NFC 5 seed, #1 NFC Wild Card Giants 38-13 in Wild Card Round, defeated #1 seed, NFC East Champion Cowboys 34-31 in Divisional Round. Falcons had bye through wild card round as NFC #2 seed, defeated #3 seed NFC South Champion Seahawks 36-20 in Divisional Round
Playoff History: This is the teams fourth meeting. Packers won 37-20 in 1995 Wild Card Round and 48-21 in 2010 divisional round. Falcons won 27-7 in 2002 Wild Card Round
Fast Facts: This will be the final football game played in the Georgia Dome ATL: Averaging 35 points per game at home GB: QB Aaron Rodgers has thrown one interception in the Packers last 8 games (all wins)
The Packers won a thrilling shootout with the Pokes to get here but they are losing players through attrition. Jordy Nelson is still doubtful to play with busted ribs, Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison ailing as well and the Packers receiving corps is very much bruised and banged up. The Packers puny running game is barely showing life. I mean they have Ty Montgomery, a wide receiver playing running back for petes sake. But the Packers still have Aaron Rodgers and he can make things happen. On the other side you have the Falcons who have flown under the radar most of the season. Many people forget that had the Falcons not won a 33-32 thriller over these Packers in October this game would be being played on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field and not in the toasty confines of the Georgia Dome. Will this make a huge difference? Not likely. Though Julio Jones is hobbled with a bum toe, I still think he will play enough to make the Packers sometimes suspect defense have to account for him and that will open up the passing game for Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan to get Mohammed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel in the game. Add in their sneaky good running game that features Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman and the Falcons have the needed tools to withstand a withering attack from Rodgers and the Pack. THe later game is getting all the hype and pub but this game will be a good one. I think the Falcons have more weapons and will dare the Packers to keep up this is one that Rodgers and company wont have a final answer for and the Falcons take their 2nd Super Bowl trip
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Steelers (13-5, #3 Seed AFC North Champions) @ Patriots (15-2, #1 Seed AFC East Champions)
Gillette Stadium; Foxboro, MA 6:40 (CBS)
Patriots by 6
How They Got Here: Steelers defeated #6 Seed, #2 AFC Wild Card Dolphins 30-12 in Wild Card Round and defeated #2 Seed, AFC West Champion Chiefs 18-16 in Divisional round. Patriots had bye through Wild Card round as AFC #1 seed and defeated #4 Seed AFC South champion Texans 34-16 in divisional round.
Playoff History: This is the teams 5th Playoff meeting. The Steelers won 7-6 in the 1997 Divisional Round, The Patriots won 28-3 in the 1996 Divisional Round, 24-17 in the 2001 AFC Championship and 41-27 in the 2004 AFC Championship.
Fast Facts: The winner of this game will be making an NFL record 9th Super Bowl Appearance. PIT: Making its AFC record 13th AFC Championship game appearance (8-7) tying the Cowboys for most conference championship appearances. NE: Making its NFL record 6th Straight conference game
These two teams are no fans of one another and have been the titans of the conference this century. The Steelers are weakened by a nasty flu bug that has been in the area and further hampered by the video posted by WR Antonio Brown postgame after defeating the Chiefs. All that aside, the Steelers are rolling. Ben Roethlisberger, LeVeon Bell and the aforementioned Brown have had the Steelers offense humming and despite not getting in the end zone at all last week can do just enough to cause problems. The Pats are well, the Pats looking so bored last week in dispatching a badly overmatched Texans squad and looking like a warmup to the game that they were really focused on. The irrepressible Tom Brady is doing what he does, win. Throw the ball all over the place and force defenses to account for what he can do. Forget that he’s 39, hes playing the best ball of his career. The Steelers have to know that 6 field goals will not get the job done this week and while Bell is dynamic he is not the kind of grinding keep the ball away from opposition back that will be needed to win the game. I can already hear the Steeler fans sharpening their axes and knives to hurl at me but I cant see the Steelers doing enough to win.Yeah, yeah I know Roethlisberger didn’t play in the 27-16 loss earlier in the season but the Pats have proven that they can slow Bell down enough to win. Brady will get the job done and the Pats will go to their record 9th Super Bowl win a solid if unspectacular win.
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