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NFL Conference Championship Preview

Devin McCourty (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

Devin McCourty (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

The final four have battled their way through the rigors of a 16 game schedule and the first two rounds of the playoffs to get to this very point.

One game from the Super Bowl but also one game from saying “we’ll get it next year.” This is the week that makes or breaks head coaches and quarterbacks.

Speaking of quarterbacks, we have Aaron Rodgers vs. Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger vs. Tom Brady. What a treat.

Let’s get to the games…

NFC Championship: Green Bay at Atlanta

Right off the bat, I am sticking with my original pick: Green Bay Packers.

But either could win this one as I am expecting a tremendous shootout between the two. Ryan and Rodgers are playing some of the best football I have ever seen. Ryan had the best playoff game of his life, while Rodgers continues to do the seemingly impossible. Where is the edge in this one? It can be either of these two things: the mental strength of the quarterbacks and/or whoever has the ball last with a chance to win the game. I can sense something around a 35-28 or 42-35 type of game.

Why the Packers will win

Green Bay has Aaron Rodgers. Simple as that. He has done this before (winning a super bowl) and is the hotter quarterback considering what he has done to carry this Packers team missing Jordy Nelson and featuring an inconsistent running game. His absurd throw to Jared Cook to set up the game winning field goal last week in Dallas just epitomizes what he can do, even with little around him. The defense may be a little shaky, but I like Rodgers if we are picking one quarterback in this game. That offensive line is deceptively good, as well as Rodgers’ unbelievable mobility.

Why the Falcons will win

The offense basically matches Green Bay’s, however, Atlanta’s defense has vastly improved in year two under Head Coach Dan Quinn. Vic Beasley is one of the more feared pass rushers in the game and could make life rough for Rodgers coming off the edge. Since this game is also at home, the Falcons surely have the advantage with their own fans.

On offense, the Falcons also have more weapons available. Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman feature heavily in a pass oriented offense. Freeman and Coleman can also control the clock as they split carries and are both equally dangerous. Some say Ryan should be the MVP and he’s made a great case. With the talent around him, do not be surprised if Atlanta comes out on top in the end and gets to their first Super Bowl since the 1998 season.

AFC Championship: Pittsburgh at New England

Again, getting my pick out of the way, I am sticking with New England. They have been the best team all season long and still dominated Houston last week by playing average. That is scary. The Patriots defense has a tough matchup with Pittsburgh’s big 3 but have the experience and greatness of Tom Brady on offense to dissect the Steelers defense.

Why the Patriots will win

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have reached their 6th consecutive conference championship game. Mind you, the first one came SEVEN years after they won their THIRD Super Bowl. That is insane, no matter how you put it. The experience alone is enough to give the Patriots the edge even with Roethlisberger’s two titles in three appearances in the Super Bowl.

Tom Brady, aside from last week, has been nearly flawless as he tossed 28 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions in 12 games. Again, that’s absurd. You can always count on Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to come up with a solid game plan after an average week. New England just always seems to bounce back after a loss or an average game and I expect nothing less from perfectionists Brady and Belichick.

Why the Steelers will win

Simply put, this a better offense than the Patriots have faced all season. The only marquee quarterback the Patriots have faced this season was Russell Wilson and he led the Seahawks to a victory in Foxborough earlier this season. Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell are a dangerous trio. Bell is one of the most elusive backs in recent memory with his ability to change lanes, cut, and use tremendous patience to hit the hole with blazing speed. Brown meanwhile, all Facebook live jokes aside, will be playing and the punishment from Mike Tomlin will be reserved for another time. Brown is a top 3 receiver in this league and arguably the best with his lighting quick feet and game breaking ability to turn an eight yard slant into a 60 yard touchdown. He will be very difficult to cover. The only other time Roethlisberger faced Brady in the playoffs was the 2004 AFC Championship, when Big Ben was only a rookie. The Steelers will win this game if their offense clicks because not even the mighty Patriots will be able to keep up. Roethlisberger is a big time quarterback with a knack for the clutch and will be aided by a balanced attack from Bell and receivers Brown, Eli Rodgers, Markus Wheaton and tight end Jesse James.

So who is winning?

Well I just told you if you were paying attention. New England and Green Bay will advance so there is no need to watch. (Oh go watch anyway). No matter what, because of the quarterbacks, there is going to be an enticing matchup.

Just for kicks, here is how I would rank the potential Super Bowl matchups just based on quarterback matchups:

New England vs. Green Bay (Brady vs. Rodgers)

Pittsburgh vs. Green Bay (Roethlisberger vs. Rodgers II)

New England vs. Atlanta (Brady vs. Ryan)

Pittsburgh vs. Atlanta (Roethlisberger vs. Ryan)

 

See you for Pro Bowl Coverage next week! (sarcasm detected)

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Nick is an NFL Analyst at DoubleGSports.com as well as the Philadelphia Soul Beat Writer.
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