The Divisional Round left us with four teams all with realistic chances of winning it all. And this weekend, both games are bound to be action-packed and up in the air. By Sunday night, we will know who will compete in Super Bowl LI in Houston and it’s a neck-and-neck race to the finish.
I will again pick against Jim Buzinski, who went 3-1 last week vs. my 4-0. We are both 7-1 overall this postseason.
Here’s what you need to know for Sunday’s games:
Get ready for an offensive explosion. There are no quarterbacks hotter than Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan right now. These two are the favorites to win the NFL MVP and the quarterback who performs better will likely win the game for their team.
Despite starting 4-6, Rodgers was able to salvage Green Bay’s season and he has the Packers rolling. Eight straight wins have led them to the NFC Championship, and in that span, Rodgers has thrown for 21 touchdowns, and just one interception. This is the best we have seen Rodgers, who is a former Super Bowl champion and a two-time MVP. Last week, even with top target Jordy Nelson out, he was able to throw for 355 yards, including what could be the play of the year, a 35-yard dart to tight end Jared Cook with seconds left in the game to set up the winning field goal for Green Bay.
The Packers are so good right now, but this game will not be easy. Atlanta has an offense that can square up to Green Bay, and they did that in Week 6, in a 33-32 win in Atlanta. This is the strongest indication that we will have a fantastic game on our hands and it will come down to the wire. The Falcons will be playing with the homefield advantage, and the franchise will want to make quite the memory in the team’s final game at the Georgia Dome.
Unfortunately for Atlanta, I think Green Bay will spoil Atlanta’s Georgia Dome swan song. Nobody has been able to stop Rodgers since the middle of November and I don’t think Atlanta will be able to crack the code. At this point in the season, Rodgers goes into beast mode, and he will bring the Packers to Houston.
Jeremy’s pick: Green Bay 38, Atlanta 34
Jim pick: Atlanta 35, Green Bay 27
New England is entering its sixth straight AFC Championship and Foxborough is hosting the title game for the fourth time since 2012.
Pittsburgh was unable to score a touchdown in their 18-16 win against Kansas City last Sunday. Their six field goals were enough to go to Foxborough, but they will need more if they want to win there. Le’Veon Bell has been an absolute terror at running back and he is cementing his status as the league’s best back. Antonio Brown also had another great game in Kansas City in the Divisional Round, but the team struggled to score in the red zone. Their best chance to win this game is to keep their offense on the field to prevent New England from scoring and finish their drives.
The Patriots also did their fair share of stumbling into the game as well. Tom Brady threw two interceptions all season, and threw the same amount just last week in the win over Houston. Luckily for New England, Pittsburgh’s defense is not as stingy as Houston’s, but Brady will be under a lot of pressure with James Harrison breathing down his neck. The offense is also banged up with Chris Hogan, Martellus Bennett and rookie Malcolm Mitchell limited in practice. If the Pats want to win, they will need their whole offense to shine. Dion Lewis’s three touchdowns helped last week, but the team will need more if they want to get to Houston.
In their regular season meeting, New England defeated a Landry Jones-led Steelers team in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers are a very different team than they were back in Week 7 and are winners of nine straight. I think that streak will continue Sunday night. The Steelers will win this game with clock-eating drives led by Bell. The Patriots have many weapons but it won’t be enough. If I have several smaller weapons against two bazookas in Bell and Brown, I’ll take the bazookas. Pittsburgh survives and advances.
Jeremy’s pick: Pittsburgh 24, New England 20
Jim’s pick: New England 27, Pittsburgh 17