So far, out of the 8 playoff games, I’ve correctly called 4. I got Oakland @ Houston, Giants @ Green Bay, Seattle @ Atlanta, and Green Bay @ Dallas all wrong, so here goes nothing…
Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots
Pittsburgh’s defense is playing exceptionally well lately, with James Harrison and Bud Dupree wreaking havoc on offensive lines and Ryan Shazier not wearing shirts and getting interceptions every week. Le’Veon Bell has also been torching defenses with his patient running style, racking up over 300 rushing yards in 2 playoff games. With all that being said, the Steelers didn’t find the end zone against the Chiefs and beat Miami (not much of a challenge), so I believe the Patriots defense will be able to hold them to similar results. Malcom Butler against Antonio Brown should be entertaining as always, and the Patriots pass rush will be tested against the Steelers line. The Patriots offense will need to give Tom Brady time in the pocket (something they did not do against Houston), and if they can, he should be able to pick apart this Pittsburgh secondary. Big Ben and company will put up a fight, but Bill and Brady will win and be one step away from their 5th rings.
New England 31, Pittsburgh 24
Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons
There isn’t a quarterback left playing better than Aaron Rodgers is right now. His 36-yard completion to Jared Cook at the end of the Dallas game to set up Mason Crosby’s game winning field goal was one of the most clutch plays I have ever seen. The hail marry assassin leads the streaking Packers into Atlanta to face this season’s likely MVP Matt Ryan and the Falcons, winners of 5 straight. For Green Bay to have a chance to stop Atlanta’s offense, they’re going to have to shut down either Julio Jones or the Falcons running game and attempt to make their offense one dimensional. As for the Falcons, their pass rushers need to get after Rodgers and keep him in the pocket. The most dangerous man in the NFL is Aaron Rodgers out of the pocket. Making him attempt to beat you from the pocket is the best chance they have. In what I expect to be a shootout, I’ll take the proven commodity in Rodgers to outduel Ryan and the Falcons. Hopefully, by picking the Packers, I’ll be wrong like I have been about half these games, and the Pats won’t have to see them in the Super Bowl.
Green Bay 38, Atlanta 35
Photo Credit: (SI.com)