Championship Sunday Preview

102515 NASHVILLE: -- Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan audibles a play against the Titans at the line of scrimmage during the first half in a football game on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015, in Nashville. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

 

By: Brandon Blake

On Sunday, four teams will be playing for the right to punch their ticket to Super Bowl 51 in Houston. In the NFC, will it be the red-hot Packers as led by the dazzling quarterback play of Aaron Rodgers or will the Falcons and their historically great offense led by Matt Ryan send the Dirty Birds to Texas for the Super Bowl?

In the AFC, will the Patriots return to the Super Bowl and further cement the legacies of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick or will the high-octane Steelers offense pull off the victory and head to Houston.

Here are my picks for the Championship games.

NFC Championship

Packers vs Falcons

-The Georgia Dome scoreboard is going to get quite the workout in this the final game that will be played there on Sunday. The Falcons have had the best offense this season and Matt Ryan should be the MVP due to his spectacular play in the regular season as quarterback of this team. The defense for the Falcons while ranked outside the top 20 per the Football Outsiders DVOA rankings, is an improving unit and has a potential star in Vic Beasley who can get to the quarterback and put pressure on the Packers offense.

Yet despite the Falcons explosive offense and the Packers charitable secondary, I am picking the Packers because the play of Aaron Rodgers these last few weeks has been otherworldly despite not having Jordy Nelson or Devante Adams due to injury. I think Rodgers play will continue to elevate this Packers team and get them to the Super Bowl.

Prediction: Packers 44 Falcons 35

 

AFC Championship

Steelers vs Patriots

It is a testament to how strong an organization the New England Patriots are despite the amount of changes they have had this season. They have lost key players to injury and suspension and yet here they are sixty minutes away from playing in another Super Bowl. Tom Brady is still leading the Pats on offense and despite not having tight end Rob Gronkowski due to injury, the Pats have found ways to score with the help of Julian Edelman and a good rushing attack led by LeGarrett Blount and Dion Lewis.

The Steelers pose a credible threat to the Pats making it to Houston. On offense, Le’Veon Bell is one of the better running backs the Pats have faced in the playoffs and Antonio Brown is the type of wide receiver that is a gamechanger with his speed and receiving skills. This Pittsburgh offense will be difficult for the Patriots defense to stop.

But I think they can at least limit the Steeler offense as they are ranked seventh in the Football Outsiders DVOA defensive rankings. And I think Tom Brady’s quarterback play will be able to take advantage of an improving but still young Pittsburgh secondary.

Prediction: Patriots 28 Steelers 24

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