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NFL Playoff Picks 2017: Conference Championships

The road to Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas is nearly at an end. Let's take a look at the 2017 NFC and AFC Championship Games to see who will ultimately move on to Super Sunday.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Even without the New Orleans Saints participating, the 2017 NFL Playoffs have started to get entertaining. Now, the NFL's final four take the stage to determine who moves on to Super Bowl LI.  The NFC title matchup features two of the highest scoring offenses in the league right now, led by the top MVP candidates at quarterback, while the AFC title matchup features two of the most dominant teams and quarterbacks in the conference over the past decade.  These games should be very interesting.

Last week I went 4-0

I told you so: All four games last week!

What do I know: See above!

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS

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#4 Green Bay Packers at #2 Atlanta Falcons

Sunday, January 22nd - 2:05pm CST - FOX

Atlanta comes into this NFC title game with their premium offense running on all cylinders under the big top in Atlanta.  After sinking Seattle last week, the Falcons will now host one of the hottest teams in the NFL, in the Green Bay Packers.  A team led by Aaron Rodgers and his inexplicable ability to lead his team through a sea of injuries and a disappointing start to the season, only to see them rally in the second half by running the table over the last 8 weeks to make it here, one game away from the Super Bowl.

On the other sideline stands Matt Ryan, who much like Cam Newton in this spot a year ago, looks to change the perception of a talented underachiever who has languished in mediocrity and scrutiny for more seasons than he hasn't.  With the NFL's top-scoring offense at his disposal, masterminded by offensive coordinator and next 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, Ryan looks to accomplish was he and the Falcons failed to do five years ago, win the NFC title, at home.  They have the pieces to do it, but do they have the heart to beat Rodgers, the Packers, and possibly destiny.

The narrative on what it takes to beat Atlanta has been all wrong.  It's not about what defense can stop the Falcons at home, because the Falcons will score 30+ points at home no matter who you are fielding, it's about what offense can outscore the Falcons.  That team wouldn't have been Dallas, and it certainly wasn't Seattle.  That team is the Green Bay Packers.  Atlanta has given up 30+ points in 5 of 9 games in the Georgia Dome this season and this one will be no different.

There's never been any proof that any team has ever been destined to reach an improbable goal, but if any team has ever truly felt destined to reach the Super Bowl, it may be these Packers.  Aaron Rodgers is currently playing at a level that is well beyond comprehension.  As many of his teammates fall to the wayside with injuries, Rodgers continues to make playoff legends out of depth players.  It's downright remarkable what Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy have been able to do with so little.

This game will get pretty wild.  If you like scoring and mediocre defensive play, this game will be right up your alley.  This one won't come down to who makes the big play, but who makes the last big play.  Can the Packers outscore the top-scoring Falcons offense?  Can the Falcons fight against destiny and a quarterback playing at levels that are virtually unheard of?  Ultimately, the only question to ask is: will Aaron Rogers demolish the Georgia Dome himself this Sunday?  As the Packers demolish Atlanta's home stadium and the Falcons' Super Bowl dreams in a certified nail-biter.

Pick: Packers

Final Score: 41-38

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#3 Pittsburgh Steelers at #1 New England Patriots

Sunday, January 22nd - 5:40pm CST - CBS

With Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le'Veon Bell, the Pittsburgh Steelers have the potential to be one of the most lethal offenses in the NFL.  When the Steelers offense is dialed-in, only a special defensive unit and well-planned defensive effort can slow them down.  The New England Patriots are that special defensive unit.

This Patriots defense is much more dominant than they get any credit for.  In fact, this Patriots team was overshadowed for most of the season by the Dallas Cowboys as well as being overshadowed by their own past successes and the ho-hum nature of that success.  Don't kid yourselves, this New England team has been the best team in the NFL all season.  This New England defense is the best unit they've fielded since the veteran-laden repeat Super Bowl champion unit of 2003.  Pretty good company.

Much will be made about the Patriots not having Rob Gronkowski, but they haven't had Gronk for the past six games and in those six games the Pats have gone 6-0, winning by an average score of 30-12.  Gronk or not, the Pats are just better than the Steelers, and despite how dominant both franchises have been in the AFC for the past decade-plus, the Pats have always been a bit better.

Over his career, Big Ben has only beaten Brady twice head-to-head.  In fact, Roethlisberger has never beaten Brady in Foxboro.  Although these two quarterbacks (along with Peyton Manning) have dominated the AFC landscape for well over a decade, Brady has established his dominance over Pittsburgh.  That dominance will continue here, as the New England Patriots will advance to their seventh Super Bowl under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

Pick: Patriots

Final Score: 31-23

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Well, there you have it ladies and gentlemen, your potential conference champions. Although the Saints have been done for some time now, football goes on and there's still plenty to root against this Sunday. Get ready for some intense action in these two games this Conference Championship Sunday.  Leave us your picks, insight, and comments below!