The NFL Season is coming to an end. It seems like only yesterday, in pre-season, I was telling the New York Jets fans that Ryan Fitzpatrick wouldn’t start on 28 teams in the league, unfortunately, they didn’t believe me. I try to tell fans that the football season is a marathon, not a sprint. You can’t “live and die” with your team every week. Although there were a few surprises every week, the Final Four was pretty predictable. Before the season, I wrote an article and here were my final four picks:
Seattle at Green Bay
Pittsburgh at New England.
To quote the 1965 sitcom, Get Smart…” Missed it by that much.” I was one team away. Well… now that I have lost 3/4th of you by using a sitcom reference that no one remembers. Let’s get down to some basics.
NFC and AFC Championship Preview and Prediction:
Packers @ Falcons Sunday 3:05 PM:
The Packers have won 8 games in a row. They needed the last second to defeat the number 1 seeded Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, 34-31. The Packers took a big lead early against the Cowboys and Mike McCarthy got super conservative in his play calling. It almost came back to haunt him like it did in the 2014 NFC Championship Game. The Packers led the Seahawks 16-0 at halftime, only to lose that game 28-22.
In order for the Packers to win, Aaron Rodgers has to throw the ball 40 times or more. The Packers must go for it on fourth down and not rely on a defense that was ranked 31st ( giving up 270 passing yards per game). The Packers have struggled all year on stopping opponents on 3rd down. They were ranked 24th in the league in that department. They can run the ball at times, with Ty Montgomery, but only when they use the passing game to set up the run.
Quarterback Matt Ryan has had a phenomenal season with the Falcons. Ryan threw for over 4,900 yards, had 40 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. This offense at home on that fast turf is downright scary. They were 2nd in the league in total yards per game (415),3rd in passing yards (295.3), 5th in rushing (120.5) and 1st in points averaging 33.8 per game. There is no real weakness in this offense. They have arguably the best wide receiver in the game (Julio Jones, 1400 receiving yards and 6 TD’s) and the best 1-2 running combination in Tevin Coleman ( 8 TD’s) and Devonta Freeman (1,079 rushing yards and 11 TD’s)
This is going to be a video game like shootout. Both teams are at the bottom of the league in giving up passing yards and letting teams convert on 3rd down. The team that is more aggressive on offense and throws the ball consistently on 3rd and short and 4th and short will win this game. Rodgers has been sensational the 2nd half of the season, he is clearly the MVP of the league. The difference is this game should be Rodgers ability to keep drives alive and buy time to find open receivers. I expect Ryan to throw for over 300 yards but Rodgers will throw for over 400 yards and carry his team to the Super Bowl. Go with the better quarterback in this one. Since week 12, Rodgers has a 21 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio.
Take the PACKERS over the FALCONS 41-37.
Steelers @ Patriots Sunday 630 PM:
The Steelers won 9 in a row. The last time they lost a game was on November 13th to the Dallas Cowboys 35-30. This is a team that continues find ways to win. They can win in a high scoring contest or without even scoring a touchdown. Last week against the Chiefs, Chris Boswell kicked 6 field goals in an 18-16 win. Le”Veon Bell rushed 30 times for 170 yards and Antonio Brown had 6 catches for 108 yards.
The New England Patriots are playing in their 11th AFC Championship game since 2000. They have a simple formula that is time tested. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are the greatest coach/ quarterback combination in the history of the NFL. After missing the first four games of the season, Brady finished the season with 28 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. The last time New England lost was on Nov 13th to the Seattle Seahawks 31-24. Coincidentally, that is the last time the Patriots played a team that had a good offense. Over the past 8 weeks, this has been their opponents.
New York Jets, Patriots won 22-17.
Los Angeles Rams, Patriots won 26-10.
Baltimore Ravens, Patriots won 30-23.
Denver Broncos, Patriots won 16-3.
New York Jets, Patriots won 41-3.
Miami Dolphins, Patriots won 35-14.
Houston Texans, Patriots won 34-16.
As you can see, there is not one offense on the list above that would scare any defensive coordinator. For the first time in two months, the Patriots will play a team that can beat them with the pass and the rush.
Prediction: According to ESPN, The Steelers are 9-0 when Bell rushes for over 90 yards. The Patriots haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher for the past 24 games. This is all you need to look for in this game. If Bell rushes for over 100-yards the Steelers should win. 15 players on the Pittsburgh roster, have the stomach flu. Despite that, I am still taking them to get to the Super Bowl.
PITTSBURGH WINS 24-23
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