Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will meet the Falcons in the NFC Championship Game
After six one-sided postseason games dominated by the home teams, the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers both won thrilling divisional playoff games Sunday on the road.
Those victories have set the stage for the AFC and NFC title games, which will be played next Sunday.
The Packers, who upset the Dallas Cowboys, will go to Atlanta to take on the NFC South champion Falcons. Atlanta dispatched the Seattle Seahawks Saturday, and it gained home-field advantage for the title game with the top-seeded Cowboys’ defeat.
The Steelers held on for a hard-fought 18-16 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs; they have reeled off nine straight victories. The Steelers are headed to New England to square off with the Patriots, who did not play their best game Saturday night against the Houston Texans but still came away with a 34-16 victory.
The Patriots remain the clear favorites to win the Super Bowl. They are plus-140 favorites to win the championship, according to OddsShark.
The Falcons are the second choices at plus-275, while the Packers and the Steelers are both listed at plus-400.
|NFC||Green Bay at Atlanta||Jan. 22||3:05 p.m.||Fox||Atlanta (-4.5)|
|AFC||Pittsburgh at New England||Jan. 22||6:40 p.m.||CBS||New England (4.5)|
The website also tweeted that the Falcons are 4.5-point favorites over the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, while the Patriots are favored by the same amount over the Steelers in the AFC title matchup.
Both championship games will be rematches of regular-season games between the combatants.
The Falcons defeated the Packers 33-32 in a Week 8 thriller in the Georgia Dome. The Packers led that game 32-26 late in the fourth quarter, but quarterback Matt Ryan connected with wide receiver Mohamed Sanu on a game-tying 11-yard touchdown pass with 31 seconds to play, and placekicker Matt Bryant kicked the extra point to give the Falcons the narrow win.
John Bazemore/Associated Press
The game was a shootout between Ryan and Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Ryan threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns, while Rodgers passed for 246 yards and four scores. Neither quarterback threw an interception in that game.
Both quarterbacks have had spectacular seasons, and it would seem likely that the NFC title game will follow a similar script. The quarterback who has the ball in his hands last may have the best chance of leading his team to a victory and an appearance in Super Bowl LI.
Rodgers was overjoyed after leading the Packers to their win at Dallas. He threw for 356 yards and two touchdowns.
”Unbelievable effort. I mean, what a game, what a game,” Rodgers told the media after the game (h/t Stats LLC, Associated Press and CBS Sports). ”We’re going to celebrate this and move on to Atlanta. We’re just going to enjoy this right now.”
The Patriots got the best of the Steelers when the two teams met in Pittsburgh in Week 7. New England came earned a 27-16 victory, but the Steelers were not at their best in that game as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was unable to play.
Tom Brady had a solid game against the Steelers, as he completed 19 of 26 passes for 222 yards with two touchdowns and did not throw an interception. While Roethlisberger did not play well, wideout Antonio Brown still caught seven passes for 106 yards while running back Le’Veon Bell ran for 81 yards.
Le’Veon Bell is the 1st player in NFL history to rush for 150+ yards in each of his 1st 2 career postseason games pic.twitter.com/0YQeqv08wd
— Randall Liu (@RLiuNFL) January 16, 2017
Bell is coming off two outstanding playoff performances, as he ran for 167 yards in the wild-card win over the Dolphins and followed that up with a 170-yard effort against the Chiefs.
“The guys up front did a great job again,” Bell told NBC sideline reporter Michelle Tafoya. “You have to give a lot of credit to the offensive line. The coaches put their trust in me and I just ran good and hard.”