Sports Commentary by: Seth Rainey and Bennett Rowan
AFC Championship Preview
On Sunday evening, the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots will be facing off in the AFC Championship to determine who will represent the conference in the Super Bowl.
Both teams are coming off of impressive wins in the divisional round of the playoffs and look to continue their playoff run in Foxborough this weekend.
The Steelers, led by Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger, finished the regular season with a record of 11-5 and won the AFC North. Their explosive offense pushed them past both the Dolphins and the Chiefs but also gives them a real shot to knock off the Patriots, who are favored by six points.
Antonio Brown, who is arguably one of the best receivers in the league, finished the regular season with 106 receptions, 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns. Brown and Roethlisberger pose a real threat to torch New England’s secondary.
The Patriots, who also have a dangerous offense, are led by their MVP candidate, Tom Brady. New England finished with a 14-2 record in the regular season, with one of those losses coming during Brady’s four game suspension at the beginning of the season.
In the twelve regular season games that Brady played this season, Brady completed 291 of 432 passes with 3,554 yards, 28 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. If Brady continues to play the way that he has played so far this year, it will be hard for Pittsburgh to slow him down.
Due to the fact that both teams have high powered offenses, some of their playmakers on defense can tend to be overlooked.
Logan Ryan of the Patriots leads the team in both tackles (92) and interceptions (2). Ryan has made plays for New England all year and will try to help his defense slow down the Steelers’ offense.
Ryan Shazier of the Steelers has the second most tackles on the team (55) and is tied for the most interceptions (3). Shazier has been in the NFL since the 2014 season and has been a force for the Steelers defense since then.
The Patriots will host the Steelers at Gillette Stadium on Sunday and will kickoff at 6:40 PM (Eastern Time). The winner of this game will face the winner of the NFC Championship in the Super Bowl on February 5th.
NFC Championship Preview
The final game in the era of the Georgia Dome takes place Sunday afternoon as the Green Bay Packers travel to face the Atlanta Falcons, with both teams looking to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl in Houston.
The Packers come into this game riding an eight game winning streak, led by MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers, who has been arguably the hottest quarterback during the second half of the season.
The only other player who can rival Rodgers’ late surge is his counterpart, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who was consistent during the regular season as well as during his shredding of the “Legion of Boom” last Saturday.
Ryan went 26 for 37 with 338 yards and three touchdowns against the Seahawks. His play quieted many of his critics who believed he could not live up to the playoff pressure and get the job done against a tough Seattle team.
The Falcons carry the momentum of a five game winning streak and the support of a rowdy home fanbase looking to go out of the Dome with a bang.
Although the home field advantage will be key for the Falcons, the health of arguably the best receiver in the league, Julio Jones, will be essential to the Falcons chances of victory. Jones’ toe injury has been nagging him for weeks, but he says he will be ready to go.
The Packers also enter Atlanta without their full arsenal at hand. Star wideout Jordy Nelson is questionable to play after he suffered fractured ribs against the Giants in the Wild Card round. Starting defensive back Damarious Randall is also questionable with a foot injury.
Regardless of who suits up for Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers has torched defenses with his band of misfits and his natural ability, which is second to none in the league.
Rodgers has thrown for 53 completions on 83 attempts with 717 yards and six touchdowns this postseason, but he must perform this Sunday to cement his legacy.
The Falcons host the Packers this Sunday with kickoff coming at 3:05 in the final game for the historic Dome.