Divisional Round Recap
Everyone says that defense wins championships, but apparently it’s great quarterback play that gets you there. Of the quarterbacks that finished the season in the top four in passer rating, three are moving on to the Championship Round and the fourth, Dak Prescott, fell just a field goal short.
In the AFC, the Patriots handled the Texans, as expected, despite a valiant first half effort from the Texans and a relatively pedestrian game from Tom Brady. Pittsburgh traveled to Kansas City and won on the leg of Chris Boswell, who set a playoff record with six field goals, accounting for all of the Steelers scoring on Sunday.
The NFC saw Atlanta dominate at home against the Seahawks, as the Falcons offense proved too much for a Seattle defense that clearly missed safety Earl Thomas. Dallas and Green Bay fought it out in what might go down as one of the best playoff games of all time. After coming back from an eight-point deficit, the Cowboys came up short when Mason Crosby nailed a 52-yard field goal following a throw and catch that Packers fans may never forget.
What to Watch for in the Championship Round
Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons (-4) – Sunday, January 22 12:05 PM PT
If you’re into scoring, you’re going to love this game. With Aaron Rodgers playing arguably the best football we’ve ever seen at the position going into Atlanta against a Matt Ryan-led offense that led the league in scoring this year, it’s no surprise that this game has an over/under at 60 points, the highest-projected game total we’ve seen all season. Neither defense has been particularly effective at stopping teams from scoring and both of these teams consistently outscored Vegas projections this year. In all likelihood, this game will come down to which MVP candidate quarterback has the ball last.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots (-6) – Sunday, January 22 3:40 PM PT
The Pittsburgh Steelers have consistently struggled to put points on the board on the road this year, and that showed in the Divisional Round, where they were able to pull out a victory despite not finding the end zone once. They’ll need a better effort this week against a New England offense that is a far cry from the anemic attack of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick, is known for taking away a team’s top offensive weapon — the question is whether he will focus in on Le’Veon Bell, who set the team playoff rushing record for the second week in a row, or Antonio Brown, arguably the top wide receiver in the game. Pittsburgh will have to decipher Belichick’s plan quickly if they want to keep pace against a defense that allowed the fewest points in the league this year.