Packers at Falcons (Sun, Jan 22 – 3:05pm ET)

I’m 6-2 in playoff picks heading into Conference Championship Weekend.

Ironically, my 2 losses came at the hands of Atlanta (I picked the Seahawks to beat them) and Green Bay (I picked the Cowboys to beat them).  Now these 2 teams meet this week.

How can I go against either one when I underestimated both?

Well, the consensus over/under for this game is 60.5.  Obviously, a ton of offense is expected.  I see the game ending up like a shootout between 2 high-powered offenses as well.

The Falcons are also favored by Vegas (-4) and I concur with that.  I think Atlanta uses their home-field advantage and defense to do what I thought Dallas would do last week.

That is: The offense must keep pace with Aaron Rodgers and let the defense hold him back just enough to eke out a win.

It’s hard to bet against Rodgers, which I’ve done all along. I just think the Falcons have the healthier, more complete team with more weapons and are flying under the radar.

Finally, I understand the flu bug has been going around Green Bay’s locker room this week.  And, on Friday, Rodgers confirmed he was one of the illness’ victims.

Could this really make the difference today and give Atlanta the edge?

I have no idea how sick any of the Packers personnel have been over the course of the week.  But, at this stage, every little thing matters.

Conclusion:  Falcons prevail.

Steelers at Patriots (Sun, Jan 22 – 6:40pm ET)

For this game, I predicted both these teams would prevail in previous matchups because I believe they are both excellent, complete teams.

But, I’m picking New England to win at home and go to the Super Bowl.

The Patriots’ biggest advantage will be their run defense which I think will put a dent in Le’Veon Bell’s path to the end zone.  (NE’s defense finished the regular season with 3rd least rushing yards allowed).

Instead, I like the Patriots’ running game and LeGarrette Blunt to dominate the run.  Just like the Steelers are balanced on both sides of the offense, so is NE.

I also have come to believe less in Big Ben Roethlisberger and his ability to not make mistakes at crucial times.

Last week, for instance, his excellent O-Line allowed hardly any pressure on him from the good front seven of the KC defense and yet, he had a lot of bad throws and 0 TDs.  (He was 20-31, 64.5% completion accuracy including 1 interception).

On the other side of the field will be Tom Brady lurking.  If he gets better pass protection than he had vs Houston’s #1 defense, he should make the big plays and put his team over the top.

In the end, this game will come down to which QB performs better.  If Roethlisberger picks up his game, this is going to be a closer one than we think.

Conclusion:  Patriots prevail.

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