The end of the 2016-17 NFL season is nearing an end with only four teams remaining for the chance to play in the biggest game in sports, the Super Bowl. Despite all the noise happening off the field, (the Chargers moving to Los Angeles, the Raiders moving to Las Vegas, etc.) the most exciting football is yet to be played. Let’s dive a little deeper into each matchup going into the conference championships and even ahead to the Super Bowl.
The Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons will square off in the NFC Championship Sunday afternoon. The Packers are easily the hottest team in football, led by a quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, who is playing out of his mind right now. He is playing at a historic pace and looks to continue that this weekend. He also some help though as the offensive line is also one of the best in the business anchored by tackles David Bahktiari and Bryan Bulaga along with guard T.J. Lang. With Rodgers’ elite playmaking and scrambling skills paired with an overpowering offensive line, it will be nearly impossible to contain the Packers through the air. Ty Montgomery is also solid at running back and gives them some balance. The defense still needs some work, especially in the secondary, but the pass rush continues to improve. With a lot of veterans a that side of the ball, there is plenty of playoff experience.
The Packers will struggle on defense but will still run up the scoreboard on anyone. The Atlanta Falcons are no different. Matt Ryan is the front runner in the MVP race and has one of the best receivers in the game at his disposal in Julio Jones. They also have a two-headed monster in the backfield with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. The offensive line is very balanced and has improved drastically from last year. The defense is led by second year Clemson product Vic Beasley Jr. He is one of the best edge pass rushers in the game with former Pro Bowler lining up opposite of him in Dwight Freeney. The secondary needs some help, but if the pass rush remains effective, the Falcons will be in good shape. This will be an absolute shootout in Atlanta come Sunday. Whoever can contain the opposing offense just enough will be making a trip to the Super Bowl.
In the AFC, the Patriots and Steelers will face off. This is a battle of two of the best quarterbacks who have ever played the game. Tom Brady looks to lead his team to another Super Bowl without his star tight end Rob Gronkowski. Brady looks better than ever however and it seems like there are no concerns in the New England locker room. Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Michael Floyd and Martellus Bennett are all available as well. The offensive line is the biggest concern for the AFC East powerhouse as they have struggled throughout this entire season. The defense is borderline elite and the secondary is as good as they come. Nobody prepares schemes quite like Bill Belichick and you can count on them being ready in every facet.
This is a very scary Steelers team. Big Ben is healthy and ready to go paired with Antonio Brown in the passing game. The offensive line is clicking on all cylinders right now to. However, the X factor in this one will be the running game. Le’Veon Bell. He has looked like a man among men thus far and will look to control the game on the ground. The defense is the big story with the Steelers as of late though as the pass rush has truly emerged and young defensive backs have stepped up. The Steelers have been a very streaky team and ride the momentum they have accumulated over past weeks.
It will be very interesting to see what happens over the next two weeks in preparation for the Super Bowl.
Alex Welz is a former senior-editor-in-chief of The Rambler as a member of the Cathedral Prep Class of 2018.