Some people say this has been a disappointing post-season so far. And maybe they are right – most of the games to this point have been blowouts. The Green Bay/Dallas game saved divisional weekend. And the Chiefs/Steelers game at least had some drama.
But if it’s been disappointing so far, we should at least be set up for two great games this weekend. Should be plenty of scoring and plenty of excitement.
First, a recap of last week. Andy was brutal during the regular season, but he’s on fire right now. Can’t miss. Tony’s close behind. Here are the standings:
|Divisional weekend||Playoff total|
And here are picks for championship weekend. Enjoy folks:
|January 22, 2017|
|Green Bay at Atlanta||Atlanta||Atlanta||Green Bay||Atlanta|
|Pittsburgh at New England||New England||New England||New England||New England|
Anthony Maggio: Couldn’t ask for a better matchup in terms offensive fireworks. Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers, both playing the best football of their careers, on turf, to decide who plays in the Super Bowl. I’m going with the Falcons here because I think their defense has a better shot at slowing down the Packers than Green Bay does of slowing down Atlanta. A Packers victory wouldn’t surprise me in the least, though, because while Ryan is consistently good, Rodgers continues to be some kind of circus magician.
John Vomhof Jr.: First and foremost, expect points–lots and lots of points. This one’s going to be a shootout, and I’ve got a hunch the Falcons come out on top. They were the NFL’s highest-scoring team this season and averaged a jaw-dropping 36.6 points per game since the bye. And while it’s hard to bet against the Pack right now, it just feels like this is Atlanta’s year.
Tony: I actually had made my picks for the Super Bowl by the end of the third quarter of the Falcons/Seahawks game last weekend. The Falcons finally look like they are for real — an offense that can run and pass the ball efficiently, and doesn’t have to rely solely on Julio Jones to do so — plus a defense that is good enough to occasionally slow down any offense, especially when they are fresh due to their offense controlling the game. Green Bay is better than I would have given them credit for at any point in the season, but they are still too one dimensional, in that it all relies on Aaron Rodgers shoulders. True, there’s not many you’d like to rely on more than Rodgers—but this year, Matt Ryan is seemingly one of those few. The key may be for Atlanta to not let Green Bay jump out to a two-score lead early — not sure I love Atlanta playing catchup like the Cowboys did — but I didn’t love the Cowboys doing it either, and the suspect Packer secondary let them back in.
Andy: I want to pick Atlanta, I really do. I live in Minnesota and pull for the Vikings, so another Green Bay trip to the Super Bowl would be hell. So, go Matt Ryan! Go Devonta Freeman! Go Julio Jones! But I just think Aaron Rodgers is on too much of a roll. He put up 34 points on the road against the NFC’s best regular season team last week with his best WR on the bench and without any real threat of a run game. It will be high-scoring and exciting, but I’m in the minority. I think the Packers prevail.
Anthony: I prefer the Chiefs defense to that of the Patriots, but New England’s offense is light years better and the Steelers barely squeaked out of Arrowhead. Pittsburgh could always surprise and play like it does at home, but that’s rare in the regular season, let alone in Foxborough with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. The Steelers could keep up for 3-plus quarters, but New England’s killer Bs (Belichick, Brady, Blount) at home ultimately trump Pittsburgh’s version.
John: This should be another entertaining game, but it’s just impossible to bet against Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Pats. The Steelers are going to score points (and not just FGs), but New England is the better all-around team.
Tony: Given the history of both teams, it just seems unlikely that the Patriots would reduce under pressure in a Super Bowl opportunity — especially when the opportunity comes with the chance to put Roger Goodell in the deflating position of handing the Lombardi Trophy over to the guys he (supposedly) screwed out of a first round pick and the first 4 games of the season. I believe the Patriots will really take the air out of the Steelers early by jumping out to a lead, and will have a good grip on the game by halftime.
Andy: I saw this coming from a mile away heading into the season. Angry Tom Brady and Angry Bill Belichick rarely lose. What more is there to say? As soon as the Patriots emerged 3-1 from Brady’s four-game suspension, it was a no-brainer that this team was going to be the top seed in the AFC and that a trip to the Super bowl was going to go through Foxborough. I don’t think this tour ends until Goodell has to face Robert Kraft on the winning stage.
None of us believe the Steelers will beat the Patriots. So we invited an occasional Zoneblitz contributor from the past to share thoughts on why they could: Neal Coolong, senior editor of NFL sites with USA TODAY Sports Media Group, and founder of SMG’s NFL Wire Network and The Steelers Wire, says:
Lots of teams have aimed to stop Le’Veon Bell over the last nine weeks. None have been successful. Not to diminish the value of the Patriots’ defense, but when the three best quarterbacks you faced all year are Russell Wilson (hands down), Carson Palmer (little less enthusiastic) and a grab-bag of Joe Flacco, Ryan Tannehill, Tyrod Taylor and Matt Moore (sadly, not Landry Jones, the Steelers’ QB in Week 8), it’s hard to suggest it’s a defense that’s been extraordinarily challenged. True, they don’t pick the schedule, and they certainly ran a train through Brock Osweiler the way a good defense should (twice in fact), they haven’t seen a ground game coupled with the best receiver in the NFL when there’s an NFL-level quarterback under center. It will still take quite a bit for the Steelers to win — and the best performance of Ben Roethlisberger’s season — but to suggest this Patriots team cannot be topped by high-level skill players and a ground game that’s performing far better than the rest of the playoff field is silly.
Who will play in the Super Bowl?
- Green Bay vs New England (63%, 5 Votes)
- New England vs Atlanta (25%, 2 Votes)
- Green Bay vs Pittsburgh (13%, 1 Votes)
- Pittsburgh vs Atlanta (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 8