2017 NFL Conference Championships Winning Predictions

Posted by Peter Boysen on January 16, 2017 in

And then there were four. Green Bay and Atlanta survived the divisional round weekend in the NFC side of the bracket, while New England and Pittsburgh advanced on the AFC side. This Sunday we will see the two conference championships, as the Packers visit the Falcons at 3:05 Eastern time on FOX, and then the Steelers visit the Patriots at 6:40 Eastern time on CBS. Take a look at our NFL betting picks for the conference championships.

2017 NFL Conference Championships Winning Predictions

Pittsburgh will be hard to put away…but the Patriots will be able to do it.

The Pittsburgh Steelers last lost a game on November 13, suffering a 35-30 setback against the Dallas Cowboys. Since then, they’ve done nothing but win, rolling off nine straight victories, including a 30-12 smacking of the Miami Dolphins in the wild card round and an 18-16 nailbiter over Kansas City in the divisional round of the playoffs. They combine a bruising running game that features Le’Veon Bell with a dynamic passing attack, as wideout Antonio Brown is just the most exciting of several different targets that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has down the field.

However, the Steelers travel to take on a Patriots team that simply adjusts to solve problem after problem. On Saturday, the Patriots went into the halftime locker room just up a single point over the Houston Texans, and then they came out after the break and made the Texans look silly, harassing quarterback Brock Osweiler into three second-half interceptions to fuel the rout. The emergence of Dion Lewis makes the Patriots a multidimensional team on offense — something that haunted them last season, as the Denver Broncos were able to key on the pass rush and keep the Patriots’ offense off the field in their AFC Championship game. So I like New England to make the adjustments, and to score the points they need late to cover their 4.5-point spread.

Atlanta has had a scary offense all season, but it is their defense that will push them over the Packers.

Somehow, the Atlanta Falcons still fly under the radar a little bit in comparison to some of the other NFC’s teams. We hear a lot about Russell Wilson in Seattle, and their Legion of Boom defense. We hear a lot about Dak and Zeke and that amazing Dallas offensive line. We hear a lot about Eli Manning and the New York Giants, and about Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Some of this has to do with the fact that the Seahawks, Giants and Packers have all won titles in recent years (the enduring popularity of the mediocre Dallas franchise really confuses me at times, given that they almost never make the playoffs and, when they do, find epic ways to lose), so maybe what Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons need is some exposure on the game’s biggest stage. Against Seattle, Ryan and the rest of the Atlanta offense simply demolished Seattle. It’s true that Seattle was already missing safety Earl Wilson and then lost cornerbacks Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead.

However, it was the defensive side of the ball that showed how far Atlanta has come. Falcons head coach Dan Quinn was the defensive coordinator who built Seattle’s Legion of Boom, but it has taken some time for his defensive philosophy to take hold in Atlanta. The Seahawks picked off two Atlanta passes, and while the Falcons gained 309 yards on the day, the fact that Seattle only had about half the running production against Atlanta that they did against Detroit the week before played a major difference in the amount of work that Russell Wilson had to do — and his vulnerability to the Seattle pass rush. Green Bay spent much of the first half making the Dallas defense look silly — a mistake that Atlanta is not likely to copy.