The season is getting closer and closer to its final act. The last Sunday with more than one game has arrived, and MDS and I are separated by only one game with three left.
Last week, I correctly picked three of the four games. MDS was 2-2. He’s 6-2 and I’m 5-3 so far in the postseason.
This week, keep reading to see what we think about the two games that will determine the Super Bowl participants.
Packers at Falcons
MDS’s take: Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers are playing the quarterback position better than anyone else in the league right now. So this game should be a shootout, with 300-plus passing yards from both quarterbacks, and 30 or so points for both teams. The difference, I think, will be the Falcons’ ability to make plays both on the ground and through the air. I expect Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman to combine for more than 100 rushing yards and to help the Falcons protect a late lead. The Falcons will win a close one and punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.
MDS’s pick: Falcons 33, Packers 30.
Florio’s take: Before Week One, I picked the Packers to get to the Super Bowl and win it. And then came the playoffs, where I had a chance to pick the Packers over the Giants, and didn’t. Next came the divisional round, where I had a chance to pick the Packers over the Cowboys. And didn’t. So now the Packers are one game away from making my September prediction at least half-accurate (the Ravens were my AFC choice), and I’m sorely tempted to pick against them again.
I’m stupid, but not that stupid. Aaron Rodgers has reached a higher level of performance, and he has sustained it regardless of who is running routes and catching passes. Yes, the Falcons have been great. The Falcons are good enough to advance. But in a toss-up game, I’ve got to go with the guy who made one of the best tosses we’ve ever seen to earn the spot in the NFC finals.
Florio’s pick: Packers 37, Falcons 31.
Steelers at Patriots
MDS’s take: Both of these teams’ offenses struggled in the divisional round, with the Patriots throwing as many interceptions in one game as they had thrown in 16 games of the regular season, and the Steelers failing to get to the end zone and winning on field goals. I think the AFC Championship Game may be a defensive struggle as well, perhaps with a defensive touchdown making the difference. In the end, I like the Patriots to win a close game and get to their seventh Super Bowl in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 24, Steelers 20.
Florio’s take: Bill Belichick likely will try to take away Antonio Brown, forcing the Steelers to run the ball into a two-gap front that could make Le’Veon Bell hesitate a little more than he already does before hitting the hole. Forcing the Steelers to sustain drives without mistakes on one hand and moving the ball largely at will against a defense that Tom Brady traditionally has managed to crack adds up to the Patriots emerging from the game with at least one more point than the Steelers.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 27, Steelers 20.