NFL Conference Championship Preview

Dr. Roto previews the AFC and NFC Championship, providing his Super Bowl finalist predictions.

Daily Dr. Roto—January 19, 2017

Divisional Championship Preview

Green Bay PackersAtlanta Falcons

Green Bay in a nutshell: Green Bay comes to the ATL with the hottest QB in the league, Aaron Rodgers, and a team that is playing with a lot of confidence. RB Ty Montgomery has shown that he can run just well enough to keep opposing defenses honest, and the offensive line is giving Rodgers tons of time to throw the football. WR Randall Cobb and TE Jared Cook have stepped up in the absence of Jordy Nelson who is still very questionable for this week’s game. Defensively, Green Bay has struggled in the secondary with all their injuries but have played just well enough to beat two good teams in New York and Dallas. For the Packers to win this game, Aaron Rodgers is going to have to out-duel Matt Ryan and pick on a young Falcons secondary. Either Cobb or Adams will need to step up, and Montgomery is going to have to find the end zone once again if the Packers want to advance to Houston.

Brett Davis/USA TODAY

Atlanta in a nutshell: After the first series last week against Seattle, it looked like the Falcons would not be advancing to the championship game. However, after a rough beginning, the Falcons buckled down and played impressive defense to win the game. Offensively, the Falcons have been exceptional all season long. QB Matt Ryan is arguably the league’s MVP, and the running game with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman has been effective. Star WR Julio Jones has been dealing with an injured toe for the better part of the second half of the season, but slot receiver Taylor Gabriel has shown that Ryan can trust him in pressure situations. The key to this week’s game is Ryan’s ability to exploit the Jones matchup against the porous Packers defense. If Jones gets 125+ yards this week, Atlanta’s next game might be in Houston. Additionally, Vic Beasley MUST put pressure on Rodgers. If Beasley can force Rodgers into making a few bad throws, the Falcons opportunistic defense may be able to capitalize on what should be a close game.

Prediction: Falcons 37 Packers 34

Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots

Pittsburgh in a nutshell: The Steelers are led by the best RB and the best WR in football. Le’Veon Bell has been outstanding this postseason, carrying the Steelers on his back to two wins. Bell has the uncanny ability to wait before he hits the hole, allowing him the time he needs to see where the defense is setting up. Not many people can run like Bell does, but he might be one of the best in history at it. Antonio Brown struggled a bit against Kansas City after having a stellar game against the Dolphins. Expect the Patriots to roll the safety over to double cover Brown across the field. If this happens, TE Jesse James (assuming Ladarius Green is still out with a concussion) should be able to operate in the middle of the field. However, the key to this game will be the young, aggressive Steelers defense. Will Shazier, Dupree, Burns, etc. be overwhelmed against a veteran like Tom Brady. We know that the Steelers will hit hard, but will they get burned on the back end?

Steve Mitchell- USA TODAY Sports Images

Patriots in a nutshell: Tom Brady looked almost human in the first half of last week’s game against the Texans. However, as the game wore on, Brady stepped up and made some outstanding throws to lead his team to victory. More importantly, RB Dion Lewis looked as good last week as he did in 2015. Lewis, who missed much of the season recovering from a knee injury, returned to form this week scoring TDs as a runner, receiver, and kick returner. In fact, one could argue that Lewis is the most important offensive player for the Patriots in this playoff run. No one has the shiftiness, and open field ability like Lewis does. Defensively, the Patriots will do whatever they can to slow down Bell and Brown. The odds are high that the team will double cover Brown and make someone else step up and have a great game. The team will also need to commit to stopping the run. Otherwise, it opens the possibility for Roethlisberger to go play action and really hurt the Patriots deep. We know that the Patriots will be well coached, but do they have the personnel to stop Bell and Brown?

Prediction: New England 27 Pittsburgh 23

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