I should've blogged this Friday but your boy had one of those nights on Thursday where I did not want to look at my phone, iPad or computer at all the next day. Happens to the best of us and honestly I'm being brave AF for coming clean right now. I don't think I deserve a reward but if somehow I got one I wouldn't turn it down. I just did not wanna see the things I may have said that night after a few jack and diets. Honestly I'm proud of myself that it only took me until like 3 pm to look at phone but I'm getting off topic yet again. Let's talk some football.
It's Conference Championship Sunday!
We made it. It's here. After today we'll know who's going to the Super Bowl. It's a great day for football, but it's also kind of bittersweet. Only 3 more football games left this season. :'(
It's been a very memorable year in the NFL and now we're down to the final four: The Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots. One of those teams will hoist the Lombardi in Houston on February 5th.
The Green Bay Packers began the year 4-2 but suffered a humiliating four game losing streak highlighted by giving up over 40 points twice, to the Titans and Redskins respectively. At Packers to 4-6 and in 3rd place in the NFC North it seemed like Packers would be on the outside looking in come playoff time. But both teams in their division ahead of them; the Vikings and Lions both fell off to end the year and the Packers took off. Green Bay won 6 straight to "run the table" as Aaron Rodgers now famously claimed they would to end their season at 10-6. They clinched the NFC North by beating the Lions in week 17 in what was essentially an NFC North championship game. In the playoffs they beat two teams that finished the season with a better record than them the 11-5 New York Giants and 13-3 Dallas Cowboys.
The Atlanta Falcons went 11-5 in 2016, their first winning season since 2012. Despite the best offense in the NFL many felt like the Falcons were frauds and for good reason. The Falcons have been frauds since Matt Ryan became the starter in 2008. With the exception of 2013 and 2014 they've always been in the hunt, but come playoff time Matty Ice and the Atlanta Falcons would fold. 1-4 in the playoffs going into last week, including some embarrassing blow out losses. Last week they beat up on the Seattle Seahawks to advance to the NFC Championship game for only the 4th time in franchise history. Despite the nay sayers the Falcons are a game away from the Super Bowl.
The 2016 story of the Pittsburgh Steelers is much like that of the Green Bay Packers. They started strong (despite yet another Le'Veon Bell drug suspension) At 4-1 it seemed like all systems were a go in the steel city, but then much like their counterparts in Super Bowl XLV, the Green Bay Packers the Steelers suffered a 4 game losing streak that made playoff chances seem very bleak. After Ben Roethlisberger got hurt against the Dolphins the Steelers stumbled and fell to 4-5. Since then they've been one of the best teams in the NFL, they've won 9 straight games going back into the regular season. In the playoffs they beat up on a broken Dolphins team who honestly had no chance to advance with Matt Moore starting, then squeaked by the Kansas City Chiefs 18-16 thanks to 6 field goals from kicker Chris Boswell.
Then that leaves my beloved New England Patriots. Despite not having Tom Brady for the first four games of the season the Pats still found a way to go 3-1. Despite trading away all pro linebacker Jamie Collins for basically a bag of chips mid season, and losing future HOF tight end Rob Gronkowski to a back injury the Patriots finished 14-2. Their best regular season record since 2010. They struggled by the standards of many in the divisional round against the Texans, yet they still won (and covered -16) and are playing in the AFC Championship game for a record 6th straight season.
Now that you have a spark notes summary of these teams seasons lets get to the games.
NFC Championship Game: (4) Green Bay Packers 12-6 @ (2) Atlanta Falcons 12-5
3:05 PM Fox. Line: Falcons -6.
This game is all about offense. Both teams defenses have a few big names, but overall aren't very scary to match up against. When you think Packers and Falcons you think about their QBs and high end talent at WR. In the final game at the Georgia Dome, this game should be a shoot out. Big 12 style football. When these teams met in week 8 it was a back and forth affair that saw the Falcons win 33-32 thanks to a Matt Ryan touchdown to Mohemad Sanu with 36 seconds left.
We all know how well both quarterbacks have been playing this year. Matt Ryan is probably going to win the MVP award and Aaron Rodgers has been playing out of his mind during this winning streak he's thrown 21 touchdowns and 1 pick. One. One interception going back to week 12.
To me this game match up comes down to the health of the Green Bay receivers. We all know how great Aaron Rodgers is, and has been of late. Highlighted by this throw in the closing seconds against the Cowboys to set up the game winning field goal, but he needs guys to throw the ball to. Randall Cobb is a nice receiver but he's not Jordy Nelson.
The Falcons have play makers at receiver in Julio Jones and Mohemad Sanu and s great backfield in Freeman and Coleman. They're gonna put up a lot of points in the dome, so you're gonna have to be able to keep up. I don't know if the Packers can given the health of Jordy Nelson and Devonte Adams. Both are seriously banged up and coach Mike McCarthy has already said he's not going to risk their longterm health for this game. They both are going to play, but for how long or how effectively remains a mystery.
I've been going back and forth on this game all week. While I don't want to over look the Steelers, the Packers scare the shit out of me in a potential Super Bowl as a Patriots fan. Even with banged up weapons Aaron Rodgers still is a miracle worker. He does things on the football field that just don't seem possible. His over all skill set is the most impressive I've ever seen on a QB.
Despite talking a lot of shit about him I'm actually a Matt Ryan guy. I was a big fan of him at BC and the Falcons have always been harmless so I've liked him the NFL and rooted for him to do well. I'm a big narrative guy in sports, it's why I picked Clemson to beat Alabama in the National Championship rematch and it's why I'm picking the Falcons to win.
This is going to be the best chance Matt Ryan has to make a Super Bowl. All the stars have aligned. The Panthers were a huge disappointment this season which helped pave the way for the NFC South crown. They weren't supposed to get a second home playoff game. The 13-3 Cowboys had home field but thanks to the Packers the Georgia Dome gets to live another week. The Packers have been on fire. But they still have a ton of flaws defensively and the Falcons have to expose that. As I already said despite Rodgers playing the best football of his career, but he's doing it with a hand tied behind his back thanks to the health of the rest of his team. Aaron Rodgers is a huge obstacle to overcome for the Falcons but the rest of the team's health makes this game a lot more winnable for Atlanta. Everybody has been calling Matty Ice a guy who melts in the big game. Against the Seahawks he was incredible. If he's ever going to shed that label it has to be today. A loss drops him 2-5 career in the post season with two home losses in the NFC Championship game. A win today and he and the Falcons are in the Super Bowl. If Matt Ryan wants to be taken seriously as an elite QB he has to prove it today on the biggest stage of his career.
I would not be shocked at all if the Packers pull it off. It would be very fitting given the way his career has gone up to this point for the Falcons and Matt Ryan to send the Georgia Dome out with a loss. My head says Packers but by heart says Falcons. I think Matt Ryan has a big day against the Packers defense and the injuries on offense finally comeback to haunt the Packers.
The final: Falcons 38 Packers 31.
AFC Championship Game: (3) Pittsburgh Steelers 13-5 @ (1) New England Patriots 15-2
6:40 PM CBS. Line: Patriots -5.5.
The one team I did not want to have to face in the AFC playoffs was the Pittsburgh Steelers. With Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell they probably have the best WR-RB combo in the NFL. They scare the shit out of me. The Patriots defense allowed the fewest points in the league this year, but stopping them both will be a tall order.
That being said, I'm a huge narrative guy and the Patriots own the Steelers. Doesn't matter who's playing for either team, ever since I've been a Pats fan they've always beaten the Steelers. I've been very lucky as a Patriots fan, the first season I can truly remember watching they won the Super Bowl. I was in 4th grade when Drew Bledsoe relieved an injured Tom Brady against the Steelers in the AFC Championship game and ever since, whenever there's been a game vs the Steelers, more often than not the Patriots found a way to win. Big Ben has beaten the Patriots once since 2005, and never in Foxboro. Past outcomes don't really matter for this game tonight but I just have a hard time believing the Patriots are going to lose this game at home.
Big Ben has also been historically bad on the road this season. I believe his QBR (if you care about that) is 30 points lower on the road than at home. While Gillette stadium isn't like Arrowhead or whatever they call the Seahawks Stadium now in the sense of noise. It is one of the biggest home field advantages in the NFL because the Patriots rarely lose there. The Patriots are 4-1 at home in AFC championship games with Tom Brady and like 500-10 in the regular season.
Bill Belichick has been famous for taking away teams best weapon. You may very well beat him, but he's not going to let your best players be the reason why. I think the Pats are going to try to eliminate Le'Veon Bell or Antonio Brown and make the other one beat them.
What scares me is that that can still very much can happen. The Steelers are the type of team that can go punch for punch with the Patriots in a shoot-out. Despite how great Brady and Patriots have looked this season, their performance last week shows they are beatable. If they played a team with even an average QB last week they probably aren't playing today. But like Kansas City, the Patriots defense gets much better in the red zone, and while I don't expect them to hold the Steelers to only field goals like the Chiefs did, as a Patriots fan it is encouraging to see.
Luckily for the Patriots this week has been full of distractions for the Steelers. Antonio Brown shared an intimate locker room speech on Facebook live that was the big story all week long. Like 15 guys on the team have the flu. Then this morning in their hotel someone pulled the fire alarm in the middle of the night. Shout out the Patriot fan who did that. Love the move. I give the Steelers a legit shot at pulling off the upset, I'd give them like a 40% chance to win. But this is also my fucking blog and if you think for one second I'm picking against the Patriots you're outside your mind.
I think the Steelers keep it close early but the Patriots break away late thanks to former Steeler LeGarette Blount and are onto Houston to hopefully win the Super Bowl and make Roger Goodell hand them the Lombardi.
The Final: Patriots 37 Steelers 24.