By Patrick Barron,
Sports Business Writer
Football fans will stay glued to their seats this Sunday as they watch both the NFC and AFC Championship games for the National Football League The winners of the two games will play in Super Bowl LI that takes place on February 5th, at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. The chance to play for a championship is at stake in what is going to be one of the most viewed events of the year on television.
The first game is between the Green Bay Packers, who finished the regular season 10-6 (first in the NFC North), and the Atlanta Falcons, who finished the regular season 11-5, first in the NFC South. They play in the latter team’s home field.
According to the USA Today Sports, the matchup which looks to be a very competitive and close game, favor the Falcons by four. Also, there are several aspects of the game to examine such as the offensive power of both teams. The first thing to remember is the superstar quarterback of the Packers, Aaron Rodgers, who has been on a tear offensively since Nov. 20th, throwing twenty-four touchdown passes and just one interception. In the meantime, the Falcons had just 11 giveaways, during the regular season, tied for fewest in the league.
Moreover, the Falcons have been masterful at home, averaging 35.1 points per game. This is largely due to the play of their quarterback, Matt Ryan, who has been amazing throughout the entire season, and is among the favorites for league MVP honors. Both teams’ solid offenses should make this an enjoyable game.
In addition, both teams have injuries that prevent them from being fully healthy. For the Falcons, it is wide receiver Julio Jones, who is recovering from issues with his toes. Coupled with injured Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson (broken ribs), both teams are missing key players. It is curious to see how injuries affect the teams in their upcoming game.
The second game is between the New England Patriots who finished the season 14-2, first in the AFC East and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who finished the regular season 11-5, winners of the AFC North. They play in the former team home in their home of Gillette Stadium.
In the line provided by USA Today Sports, the Patriots are favored by four and a half points, making for another close thriller. Not to mention, this same team includes superstar quarterback Tom Brady, who was controversially suspended for the first four games of this season due to the Deflategate debacle. Not to mention, both teams have excellent offenses, but whichever one is sounder on game day will almost certainly be the victor.
However, for the Patriots they are missing a key player in tight end Rob Gronkowski who sits out after undergoing back surgery during the regular season. Nevertheless, the Patriots seem to prevail through tough times with running back Dion Lewis, and a solid core of receivers becoming a problem for opposing teams.
There is also some controversy between the two head coaches. After the Steelers’ victory against the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs, star wide receiver Antonio Brown posted a Facebook Live video, in which head coach Mike Tomlin called the Patriots “a-holes”.
In his response to the video, Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick said, “I’m not really concerned about social media. I’m trying to get our teams ready to play against the Steelers on Sunday”.
Whether or not he wants to publicly admit it or not, Tomlin’s comments have to give extra motivation to Belichick and the Patriots ahead of the game versus the Steelers. One thing is for certain, every team wants to win, and the games on Sunday are not going to disappoint anyone, except maybe the losing team’s fans.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, January 24th print edition.
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