Thursday, January 19, 2017

NFL Weekly Predictions: Conf. Championships

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Green Bay @ Atlanta (-4½)

Matt Ryan passed for 338 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Falcons torched the Seahawks, 36-20, to advance to the NFC Championship Game.

"Seattle's Michael Bennett cursed out a reporter after the game," Ryan said. "Apparently, he got extremely angry about a question. It was the most threatening the Seattle defense was all day. The fact is, it's not four letter words the Seahawks were saying, it was the ones they were hearing that really hurt. The two most damaging were 'Matt' and 'Ryan.'

"Our offense is clicking on all cylinders. With respect to my 2-4 playoff record, I'd say we're running like a finely-tuned engine, minus the 'clutch.' Sure, I've never won a Super Bowl, like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger. And nothing makes a man feel more inferior than hearing about the 'big ones' of his colleagues. And what do you know, many predict the NFC championship will be a game of inches.

"Do the Packers have a defender that can handle Julio Jones? Of course not, but neither do we. What we do have is a foot specialist who can handle Julio. Julio's had foot problems all season. His foot's been examined so much this year, Rex Ryan's vowed to make turf toe his next weight-loss gimmick."

The Packers beat the Cowboys, 34-31, winning on Mason Crosby's 50-yard field goal as time expired. The kick was set up by Aaron Rodgers 36-yard completion to Jared Cook on third and 20 with just seconds remaining.

"To run the table," Rodgers said, "you must first set the table. And who better to set the table than Cook.

"That pass put a dagger in all Cowboys fans hearts, and probably a catheter in Jerry Jones.' It wasn't quite a 'Hail Mary'; it was more like an 'Impale Mary.' What gets broken more often? Cowboys fans' hearts, or Tony Romo's collarbone?

"That game had to be one of the most exciting in NFL playoff history. It had more 'twists' than Randy Gregory's joint-rolling capabilities. With all the drama, it probably took 10 years off Jerry's life. Now he's only 110.

"I realize my success and demeanor has made me one of the most, if not the most, disliked quarterbacks in the NFL. And that's just with my immediate family. Just ask my relatives; I'm probably better than my receivers at getting 'separation.' With all the estrangement and alienation in the life of my girlfriend and I, you'd think we'd be Scientologists. We're not, but with the Falcons the only thing standing between us and the Super Bowl, I see nothing but a 'clear' path to the title game.

There will be a lot of noise in the last Falcons game to be played in the Georgia Dome, and it certainly won't be from the chants of "defense" coming from fans of either team. It's all about the offenses, in particular Atlanta's one-two punch of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.

Atlanta wins 34-31 in overtime.

Pittsburgh @ New England (-6)

The Patriots overcame three turnovers and pulled away in the second half to vanquish the Texans 34-18. Tom Brady passed for 2 touchdowns and Dion Lewis scored 3 times as New England advanced to its sixth consecutive conference title game.

"We made a few uncharacteristic mistakes," Tom Brady said, "and many were my own. But I 'slept it off,' thanks to my Under Armor 'Athlete Recovery Sleepwear,' which promotes recovery and better sleep. It must be working, because after a 16-game regular season, I feel like I've only played 12.

"I have to be careful, though. If I wear my UA pajamas and sleep on a Beautyrest mattress, there's a good chance I'll go back in time, possibly 18-20 years back. I was barely half the quarterback I am now, which makes me twice that of a Texans quarterback.

"The Texans are a tough team to play. Their defense is one of the best in the league. Once again, Romeo Crenel made a defense great again. Houston's offense, on the other hand, is not the best. Again, to use political terminology, they are a failing pile of garbage. Bad!

"Antonio Brown aired live on Facebook Mike Tomlin's post-game speech, in which Tomlin called us a bunch of 'a-holes.' Bill Belichick told us not to even worry about that. He gives credence to video in an opposing team's locker room only if it's filmed by a Patriots employee. It's not often the opponent knowingly provides video that helps us.

"But in the spirit of fairness, we'd like to send the Steelers a video that describes our feelings about playing them in the playoffs. I hope they like horror movies, because it's called 'Rings.'

Le'Veon Bell rushed for 170 yards and Chris Boswell kicked 6 field goals as the Steelers edged the Chiefs, 18-16. Pittsburgh will face the Patriots, who defeated them 27-16 in Week 7 in Pittsburgh.

"That's right," Tomlin said. "I called the Patriots 'a-holes.' And wouldn't you know it, they were caught eavesdropping, thanks to Antonio Brown's decision to broadcast my post-game speech live on Facebook. That was really selfish and stupid of him, mostly because he just made public words and actions that will certainly be used against me. Not by the Patriots, mind you, but by Terry Bradshaw.

"LeGarrette Blount won the battle of running backs in our regular season game against New England, outrushing Le'Veon 127 to 81. That was the last time Blount and Bell were on the field at the same time. They'll tell you it's been longer than that since they've 'shared grass.'

"But I think Le'Veon is playing the best ball of his career. His patient running style is revolutionizing the rushing game in the NFL. Just a message for all young running backs out there: if you're trying to emulate Le'Veon, don't hesitate to do so.

With Roethlisberger, Bell, and Brown, the Steelers certainly have the offense to send the Gillette Stadium crowd home disappointed. But to truly be "Weapons Of Mass. Destruction, the "Big Three" has to do it against the Patriots defense and the scheme of defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, as well as the guile of Bill Belichick. If there's a blueprint for beating Tomlin and the Steelers, Belichick certainly has it, probably in the form of a 35-page dossier, which contains critical information that is damning to Pittsburgh's "Big Three." This notorious dossier doesn't have any reference to "golden showers," but there's some solid intelligence in there about "live streaming."

New England wins, 29-26.

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