2017 NFC-AFC Conference Championships Preview

One of the Greatest Weekends in Sports

It’s Conference Championship time again in the NFL. That means there are only four teams that still have a chance to advance to Super Bowl LI. And although the Super Bowl gets all the attention, many hardcore NFL fans prefer the action of the Conference Finals to the title game.

Championship weekend begins on Sunday at 3:05 Eastern, when the Green Bay Packers travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons. The night game has The Pittsburgh Steelers traveling to their Waterloo in Foxboro, where they’ll match up against Tom Brady and whoever sneaks open over the middle for the Patriots.
Here’s a look at the upcoming matchups.

Green Bay vs Atlanta for the NFC Title
In what promises to be a high-octane affair, the offenses of both teams come in on a tear. Behind probable MVP quarterback Matt Ryan, the Falcons finished No. 2 in total offense, while all-time great Aaron Rodgers has the Packers peaking at the exact right time. It’s probably a cliche in today’s pass-happy NFL, but the winner will probably be the team that has the ball last.
This game features teams with vastly different postseason pedigrees. On the one hand, you have the Green Bay Packers, winner of four Super Bowls and perennial title contender for the past two decades. This weekend, they clash with an Atlanta franchise that has won only four playoff games in the last fifteen years.
The turnover battle will be even more important than usual in this game. Rodgers and Ryan both threw only 7 interceptions during the regular season, so the defense that can force a bad decision or two will tip the scales strongly in their team’s direction.

Pittsburgh vs New England for AFC Honors
The Steelers come into Gillette Stadium looking to avenge an early season loss to the Patriots. They also want to reverse an ominous playoff trend against Bill Belichick and company, as the Patriots have ended their postseason twice in the Tom Brady era. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense has exceeded expectations this year, but they come into this game needing a magical performance from what has proven to be an average defense.
The Patriots look to put a huge exclamation point on their DeflateGate revenge tour by advancing to their seventh (yes, seventh) Super Bowl under Belichick and Brady. With a victory over Pittsburgh, they’ll destroy the legitimacy of any Greatest Team Ever debate, and with another Super Bowl win, they’d be in uncharted territory.
It’s simple. The Pittsburgh defense has to put pressure on Tom Brady if they’re going to have a chance this week. They just don’t have the firepower to win a shoot-out, not against a Hall of Fame QB with a chip on his shoulder.


graphics via @NFL