We are down to the Final Four in the NFL and it is not surprising to see that four of the best quarterbacks are leading the four remaining teams. Once again, it goes to show that no matter how strong a team may be in different aspects, the quarterback is still the key to success. Let’s take a closer look at the conference championships that are on tap for this Sunday.
Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons
Odds: Falcons -4
Aaron Rodgers continued his incredible run with 356 yards, two touchdowns and his first pick in nine games as the Packers won 34-31 in Dallas last week. His late completion to Jared Cook will be the stuff of legends and don’t forget to give credit to Mason Crosby, who hit two 50-plus-yard field goals in the fourth quarter. For the Falcons, Matt Ryan was fantastic in a 36-20 win over Seattle, throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns.
The Atlanta pass defense gave up 208 yards against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, but Rodgers and the Packers are a completely different beast because of how Rodgers is playing. On the other side, Dallas’ Dak Prescott threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns against the Packers, and Ryan should be licking his chops. This game could come down to turnovers: Atlanta was +11 during the regular season, while Green Bay was +8.
It’s interesting to note that while Rodgers gets a ton of credit for his play, Ryan has played just as well during that same span. During the Packers’ winning streak, Rodgers has 21 touchdowns and just one interception while completing 68.9% of his passes. Ryan has 17 touchdowns, two interceptions and has completed 72.4% of his passes during that same period.
The Packers are 4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS in their last five meetings with the Falcons, who edged Green Bay 33-32 in Atlanta in Week 8. Rodgers threw for 246 yards, four touchdowns and no picks, while Ryan countered with 288 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. Both defenses could be in for a long day on Sunday in the Georgia Dome.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots
Odds: Patriots -6
The Steelers got six field goals from Chris Boswell in a tough 18-16 win in Kansas City last week, but the star of the show was Le’Veon Bell who ran 30 times for 170 yards. As for the Patriots, they actually had a tougher time with Houston than anyone expected, but Dion Lewis ran for a touchdown, caught one and ran a kickoff back for a score in a 34-16 win. They put forth what was one of their worst performances of the season – especially Brady – but they still rolled.
The Steelers failed to score a touchdown on four trips to the red zone, but that is what Kansas City does – allow yards, but not points – so that shouldn’t be a big surprise. Pittsburgh is now 8-0 this season (counting the regular season and the postseason) when Bell runs for 100 yards or more, but that will be tested against the Patriots, who held the Texans to 104 yards on the ground on Saturday. They were third in the league against the run during the regular season. Offensively, the Patriots turned the ball over three times against Houston, and that won’t fly against the Steelers, who took the ball away 23 times in the regular season, and five more times in the playoffs so far.
The Patriots are 4-1 SU and 3-1-1 ATS in their last five games against the Steelers, who fell 27-16 at home to New England in Week 7. Tom Brady threw for 222 yards and two scores, and LeGarrette Blount ran for 127 yards and two more touchdowns. Bell ran for 81 yards, but the Steelers had to go with Landry Jones (who did well with 281 yards, a touchdown and a pick) as Ben Roethlisberger was injured.