THE SANTA CLARA
January 19, 2017
Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons
The Packers and Falcons are remarkably similar. Both have elite quarterbacks, explosive offenses, and uninspiring defenses.
Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan will be trading shots all game, but this week Ryan will be the one walking away with a final second win.
Rodgers was incredible last week in Dallas, tearing up the Cowboy’s secondary without his top receiver Jordy Nelson. But Nelson will likely miss the NFC Championship game, and Rodgers must continue to work his magic for Green Bay to have a shot.
It’s a pretty safe bet to say that Rodgers will play well. He’s led Green Bay to an eight game win streak and has 21 touchdowns to just one interception.
Green Bay probably won’t even pretend to have a running game, leaving Rodgers dropping back on nearly every play. It’s not a bad strategy when you have an elite quarterback, but it does expose him to hits. Look for Falcons defensive end Vic Beasley Jr. to leave his mark on this game. Beasley led the NFL in sacks this year with 15.5 and should wreak havoc on Green Bay’s offensive line all game.
While Rodgers lacks a top receiver, Matt Ryan has the best receiver in the game in Julio Jones. Jones is essentially unguardable and will tear up a porous Packers secondary.
But Matt Ryan didn’t become the likely MVP all thanks to Julio. Matty Ice has successfully incorporated literally everyone into the offense, as 13 players have caught a touchdown this year for Atlanta.
The Falcons offense was near impossible for the Seahawks to stop, so why should we think Green Bay will have any chance of slowing down Matt Ryan and Co?
Seattle ranked third in the league in scoring defense, allowing an average of 18.3 points per game, yet the “Legion of Boom” surrendered 36 points last Sunday against the Falcons.
Green Bay’s defense ranked 21st in scoring defense with an average of 24.3 points per game. It’s not out of the question for the Falcons offense to put up 50+ against the Packers.
The Falcons were mighty impressive against Seattle, and it’s tough to imagine Green Bay leaving the final game of the Georgia Dome with a win. It’s always stupid to count out Aaron Rodgers, but his magical run has to end eventually.
Score: Falcons 48 – Packers 45
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots
There’s plenty of hype swirling around this game, but there shouldn’t be.
New England’s the better team in nearly every phase of the game and this Sunday, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will start preparing for their seventh Super Bowl together.
Sure, the Steelers are playing well, having won nine in a row, including a nail-biting 18-16 victory last weekend against the Chiefs. They have a trio of stars on offense in Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell to go along with a young, improving defense.
Still, there’s simply no reason to believe the Steelers can win this game.
Nobody should argue that Ben Roethlisberger is better than Tom Brady. Roethlisberger’s enjoying another solid year, but Brady’s on a whole other level. At age 39, Brady is defying common sense with another MVP caliber year and is 9-2 all time versus the Steelers. The best way to disrupt Brady is with a lethal pass rush.
The Steelers pass-rush warrants respect, but it doesn’t cause fear. The Steelers ranked ninth in the league in sacks and had the 10th best scoring defense.
But Patriot’s top scoring defense will keep the Steelers at bay. Belichick always finds a way take away an offense’s best weapon; so don’t expect Antonio Brown to have a big game. Malcolm Butler, who’ll have the benefit of safety coverage, will likely blanket Brown the entire game. Without a great second option at the receiver position, the Steelers will want to turn to Bell. But if New England gets out to an early lead, Pittsburgh will have to try and utilize their passing attack.
On the other side, the Patriots have a balanced offense that’s hard to stop. With Rob Gronkowski sidelined, there’s not a playmaker that compares to Bell and Brown. But Brady has nine players who can contribute, so it doesn’t matter if Pittsburgh tries to shutdown Julian Edelman or Dion Lewis— Brady will always find the open man.
Despite missing Brady for the first four games of the season, New England’s offense averaged more points than the Steelers. The Patriots have a better coach, quarterback and defense plus the benefit of home-field. The last time the Patriot’s hosted the AFC Championship game, they won 45-7.
This game won’t be that lopsided, but it won’t be close. Pittsburgh’s 0-3 against the Patriots in recent years, with their last win coming in 2011. They’ll have to wait a few more years (when Brady retires) before they can take down the “a——-” from New England.
Score: Patriots 31 – Steelers 17
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