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Sunday, 22 January 2017

NFL Play Offs Championship Game Picks 2017 (January 22nd)

We are down to the final three games of the NFL season and this weekend we will find out which two teams are heading to Houston to compete for the Super Bowl in two weeks time.

Both AFC and NFC Championship Games look very good on paper and I think both will be very good on the field. With the spreads the way they are, I do think both underdogs will play a big part in their games, but overall I just hope there is a lot of drama like we saw in the Dallas Cowboys versus Green Bay Packers game last week.

If any of these games are better than that one, we are in for a treat on Championship Weekend.

Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons Pick: The NFC Championship Game is the final game to be played at the Georgia Dome with the Atlanta Falcons hosting the Green Bay Packers. Both had impressive wins in the Divisional Round and the Green Bay Packers are looking for a repeat of their last Super Bowl when they ran the gauntlet of road games in the Play Offs before a Super Bowl win.

They are arguably the hottest team going into the Play Offs with improvements on both sides of the ball and the Green Bay Packers won't fear anyone having knocked off the Number 1 Seed in the NFC in the Dallas Cowboys. One concern might be the flu bug that has swept through the Packers locker room over the last week which saw Aaron Rodgers a little sore too, but at this stage of the season there cannot be any excuses.

An injury to Devante Adams was a blow to the Green Bay Packers last week and he is going to be held out of practice all week to make sure he can go in this one. Adams might be listed as 'questionable' but he will play, although it is less likely that Jordy Nelson can return from the rib injury he suffered in the win over the New York Giants which saw him miss the win over Dallas last week.

As much of a blow as it would be for the Packers to miss Adams, they still have Aaron Rodgers at Quarter Back and he has shown he can extend plays and make others around him look better than they are. That throw to Jared Cook which helped the Packers win the game last week is going to be one that is replayed down the years if Green Bay can go on and win a second Super Bowl with Rodgers at Quarter Back and I don't think there are too many in his position who can make that throw.

The Falcons Defensive Line have managed to find some pressure up front which rattled Russell Wilson in the win over Seattle last week, but Green Bay's Offensive Line have protected Rodgers well enough. There is no doubt that Rodgers reads Defenses as well as anyone does and he is capable of moving in and out of the pocket to find the time to make his throws downfield.

That should negate the Atlanta pass rush to a point and I would expect Rodgers and the Packers to have more success against this Secondary that Seattle seemingly could. Moving the ball shouldn't be a big problem, but Green Bay could be under pressure to make sure they finish drives with Touchdowns rather than Field Goals if they are going to win this game.

Scoring points is going to be important for the Green Bay Packers as their banged up Defensive unit try to slow down the best Offense in the NFL. The Atlanta Falcons perhaps don't receive the same plaudits as others because they are marshalled by Matt Ryan, a Quarter Back with two Play Off wins in his career, but there is no doubt he is playing at a high level.

Ryan will be ably supported by Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman as both players are capable of running the ball effectively and have a good match up here. I would expect the Falcons to be able to establish the run as the Packers will be concerned in stopping the pass and both Freeman and Coleman are also threats coming out of the backfield to make catches and big gains in open space.

Julio Jones is a little banged up, but the Wide Receiver will play on Sunday and he will be a match up nightmare for the Green Bay Secondary with his size and athleticism. Even a limited Jones will take some of the attention away from capable Receivers and the Falcons should have plenty of success moving the ball and scoring points too.

A key factor that can be hard to determine is going to be turnovers with Fumbles and Interceptions to earn extra possessions likely to make all the difference in the Championship Game. You can't really predict with confidence which team will win the turnover margin, but the Packers Defensive unit have looked stronger than their play by making sure they do earn the turnovers to give Aaron Rodgers a chance to pull away.

Both Quarter Backs have looked after the ball pretty well, but you have to favour Rodgers in the clutch with his experience and the way he is playing at the moment. He might not be able to pull Green Bay over the hump as he needs the Defensive unit to step up, but Rodgers can make sure this is competitive, and perhaps as close as the one point win for the Atlanta Falcons in their regular season meeting here.

The illness that has spread through the Green Bay camp has to be a worry as well as the banged up Receivers, but I like Aaron Rodgers with the points to make the plays to keep this one within the number.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots Pick: I have no affiliation with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the only reason I wanted them to get into the Play Offs and progress to the AFC Championship Game is because I feel they have the best chance to give the New England Patriots a competitive game before the Super Bowl. I do dislike the Patriots as a Divisional rival to the Miami Dolphins, but anyone who doesn't respect what Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have been able to do for their franchise has to not be a true fan of the NFL.

The New England Patriots are the 'gold standard' of the NFL according to Ben Roethlisberger and any team that beats them will be a genuine Super Bowl contender. They are a big favourite to see off the Pittsburgh Steelers against whom they have a very good recent record, but I do think the road team can test the Patriots more than most.

The Patriots Defensive statistics are hard to get a real feel for because they have not exactly played the best teams in the NFL this season. The question is then whether the Patriots as good as the stats say, or whether they are a product of the level of opponent they have seen and I think it is something in between both extremes.

The Defensive Line is very good and they can give Le'Veon Bell something to think about despite how well the Running Back is playing. Bell has been creating new moves for Backs in the NFL and he is arguably the best player in his position and I do think he has been aided by a very good Pittsburgh Offensive Line that should open some holes for him.

Bell is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield and makes some plays from there and he has been a key to the Pittsburgh run through the Play Offs. It has eased the pressure on Ben Roethlisberger although the Quarter Back won't be happy with his own play as turnovers have been an issue for him. Big Ben has to be careful with the ball in this one as losing the turnover battle will likely mean the end of the season for the Steelers even if he has a very good target in Antonio Brown to throw to down the field.

It does feel like Pittsburgh are going to be able to move the ball as Brock Osweiler had success last week despite his own limitations at Quarter Back. Roethlisberger is much better and should have the time to make his plays especially if Bell is proving to be a threat coming out of the backfield.

That means it will be up to Tom Brady and the New England Offense to try and match the output from the Steelers and Brady has to be a lot better than he was in the Divisional Round. Brady was guilty of two bad Interceptions which kept the Houston Texans alive in that game despite being clearly second best and it does have to be said that the whole New England performance was a little flat against an overmatched opponent.

You have to believe Brady is going to be much more focused on Sunday against a much better opponent, but the Steelers Defensive unit have been improved over the course of the season. Historically Brady has bamboozled the Defense of the Steelers, but this current group have managed to get a lot of pressure on the Quarter Back down the stretch and Brady has shown he can be rattled when Defenders are bringing him down.

The Pittsburgh Defensive Line have also shown improvement over the last couple of weeks in the Play Offs so they will feel they can slow down ex-Steeler LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis who had a huge game last week. Lewis may be more of a problem as a pass catching Running Back, but Pittsburgh have been fast around the line of scrimmage which has also helped protect the Secondary.

Brady should be helped by an establish running game from Pittsburgh, but he may have to loosen things up front by making a few more throws earlier in the game. That will allow the Steelers to try and get their pass rush ramped up, while the Secondary have made some big plays during games to shift momentum.

This has all the makings of another close game between teams who will feel they can score the points which will take them to the Super Bowl. The 'Killer B's' of the Pittsburgh Steelers all have to be at their best for the upset, but the Steelers might have been the team that matched up best with New England in the entire Conference and showed their character in winning at Kansas City last week.

Taking the points with the underdog in what could be a close game looks the best way forward and I think the Pittsburgh Steelers can do that. I just hope Ben Roethlisberger has his cleanest game in weeks and avoids the turnovers which could allow New England to pull away, but I will look for the two-time Super Bowl to show his experience and make this another competitive Championship Game on Sunday.

MY PICKS: Green Bay Packers + 6 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Pittsburgh Steelers + 6 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Divisional Round: 2-2, - 0.28 Units (8 Units Staked, - 3.5% Yield)
Wild Card: 2-2, - 0.28 Units (8 Units Staked, - 3.5% Yield)
Week 17: 5-2, + 5.36 Units (14 Units Staked, + 38.29% Yield)
Week 16: 2-4, - 4.36 Units (12 Units Staked, - 36.33% Yield)
Week 15: 6-1, + 9.06 Units (14 Units Staked, + 64.71% Yield)
Week 14: 4-5, - 2.36 Units (18 Units Staked, - 13.11% Yield)
Week 13: 4-3, + 1.62 Units (14 Units Staked, + 11.57% Yield)
Week 12: 6-5, + 1.46 Units (22 Units Staked, + 6.64% Yield)
Week 11: 3-4, - 2.54 Units (14 Units Staked, - 18.14% Yield)
Week 10: 2-6, - 8.46 Units (16 Units Staked, - 52.88% Yield)
Week 95-2-1, + 5.54 Units (16 Units Staked, + 34.63% Yield)
Week 85-2, + 5.34 Units (14 Units Staked, + 38.14% Yield)
Week 75-3, + 3.36 Units (16 Units Staked, + 21% Yield)
Week 63-3, - 0.46 Units (12 Units Staked, - 3.83% Yield)
Week 52-3-1, - 2.36 Units (12 Units Staked, - 19.67% Yield)
Week 45-5, + 0.26 Units (19 Units Staked, + 1.37% Yield)
Week 32-3-1, - 2.27 Units (10 Units Staked, - 22.70% Yield)
Week 25-5, - 0.70 Units (20 Units Staked, - 3.50% Yield)
Week 14-3-1, + 0.29 Units (15 Units Staked, + 1.93% Yield)

Season 201672-63-4, + 8.22 Units (274 Units Staked, + 1.03% Yield)

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