Once again I apologize for the lack of tables, but the same computer issue reared its ugly head again. I also apologize for the brevity. Home teams in CAPS.
Green Bay at ATLANTA (-5.5)
As much as I don't want to bet against Rodgers, here are my reasons for backing Atlanta:
- Rodgers' 1st and 3rd receivers are banged up. And not just "everybody's hurt at this point of the season" banged up, Nelson has broken ribs and Adams has missed practices this week. I know Rodgers is a magician/alien, but even he needs some support.
- Atlanta's offense has been a wrecking crew. Notice I didn't say Matt Ryan (thought he's likely your 2016 MVP), but their entire offense. They have receivers other than Julio Jones, their offensive line is quite good, and they have 2 very good and very complementary running backs.
- The Atlanta running backs on Green Bay's linebackers is a colossal mismatch. Atlanta's offense vs Green Bay's defense is a pretty big mismatch, but I can't overstate this particular mismatch.
- Kyle Shanahan may be the best offensive mind int he league. Yes, possibly even over Josh McDaniels.
- Atlanta is at home in their dome.
The pick: Falcons 41, Packers 32 (ATLANTA -5.5)
Pittsburgh at NEW ENGLAND (-6)
It feels like Pittsburgh will be in this game because of LeVeon Bell, who is rushing the ball on another level from everyone right now. I know Belichick takes away the opposition's top weapon, but I just don't see Bell as take-away-able.
I also think Pittsburgh's defense will show much better than they did in the regular season meeting between these two clubs. I don't trust Pittsburgh's secondary, but I do trust their front seven to hold down the Patriots' running game, and I believe they will get to Tom Brady.
Will it be enough? No it won't, because Ben Roethlisberger hasn't been a good road quarterback in 3 years. He's been solidly mediocre on the road for awhile now. I can't explain it, but it's been going on too long to call it a fluke at this point. Heck, look at last week against the Chiefs. Bell ran roughshod over Kansas City, and Pittsburgh scored 0 touchdowns. Field goals won't get it done against the Patriots. Pittsburgh will cover, but New England will advance to the Super Bowl.
The pick: Patriots 26, Steelers 23 (Pittsburgh +6)
Last week: 3-1
2016 Playoffs: 4-4