LOS ANGELES, January 20, 2017 — On Friday, Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States. By Sunday, Republicans and Democrats will be more focused on the road to the 51st Super Bowl.
Before the Vincent Lombardi Trophy is given to the winner of Super Bowl LI, the Conference Title Games will separate the Super Bowl participants from those who came agonizingly close. This post-season has seen very few upsets. All four remaining teams have a quarterback with a chance at making the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Football does not require hyperbole or waxing poetic. So let us get down to the business of football in the final meaningful contests before the Super Bowl.
Both Conference Championship Games will be played on Sunday, January 22. Point spreads are provided by FootballLocks.com and all times are Eastern.
NFC Title Game, 3:00 p.m., FOX: 4.) Green Bay Packers at 2.) Atlanta Falcons (-4)
These teams played a thriller in Green Bay in the regular season where Matt Ryan barely out-dueled Aaron Rodgers for a 33-32 Falcons victory. Both teams have offenses that are clicking on all cylinders. The Packers started 4-6 but then Aaron Rodgers said the team had the talent and ability to run the table. Green Bay has not lost since. Last week they went into Dallas and won, so there really is no home field advantage for Atlanta. With the game indoors, the elements will not be an issue. Both teams have vulnerable defenses. Atlanta dispatched Seattle, and Green Bay’s defense is not on the same level as Seattle.
Rodgers is on a mission, still burning over the Packers collapse in the NFC Title Game two years ago. The Falcons have talent, but the Packers have the experience. Go with the experienced team every time, especially when their quarterback has won eight straight and is still angry. The George Halas NFC Trophy will return to Titletown, although for the Cheeseheads it is all about the Lombardi. Upset special, Packers win outright.
AFC Title Game, 6:30 p.m., CBS: 3.) Pittsburgh Steelers at 1.) New England Patriots (-6)
Earlier this year the Patriots handled the Steelers without much difficult. The Steelers are not at full strength, but the Patriots played their first four games with backup quarterbacks. There are no excuses in football. Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are both playing at an elite level, but this game will come come down to intangibles. Pittsburgh is a cold weather team. They went on the road in bitter conditions last week and beat Kansas City. The New England elements will not intimidate them. January football is about the running game, and the Steelers can run the football. LeVeon Bell had 30 carries last week for 170 yards against a good Kansas City defense. Antonio Brown is one of the best receivers in the NFL.
Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger are both elite. Yet Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are in the conversation as the very best ever at their respective positions. Brady is on a Deflategate revenge tour that shows no signs of abating. The Patriots are so good that critics called them out of sync last week because they only won by 18 points. Pittsburgh has a solid defense, but at home, Brady will slice and dice it anyway. Unless Bell can run wild and the Steelers hold the ball for over 35 minutes to keep Brady off the field, Pittsburgh will fall short and New England will hoist the Lamar Hunt AFC Trophy. Patriots cover.