Cook’s NFL Picks: Conference Championship Games!

Hi, hello and welcome to Conference Championship Weekend! We were beginning to wonder if there would ever be another good football playoff game, and Sunday’s Packers/Cowboys game lived up to the billing. Will we see anything like that on Sunday? Maybe not, but we will see four of the best quarterbacks in the NFL on teams that could all be considered to be on hot streaks and playing at their best right now.

Well, one team looked kinda blah, but they were playing the Texans so they didn’t need to be any good.

Who’s going to the Super Bowl? More importantly, who should you bet on? Let’s find out together…

Sunday, January 22

Green Bay at Atlanta (-4.5)

One final game in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. The Dome only lasted twenty-five years, which isn’t long in the grand scheme of sporting venues, but I will always remember it for two major events that took place nearly fifteen years apart:

Goldberg beating Hollywood Hogan for the WCW World Championship probably shouldn’t have happened on a Monday Nitro, but the Dome was the perfect place to do it with his Atlanta Falcon background. Was the place ever louder & more up for grabs than at that moment? Tough to say.

As my fellow writers here at THE USB know, your team winning a championship is a special moment that should be cherished forever. My teams don’t win championships very often. It had been twenty-seven years since Louisville basketball had won a national championship, and it’s not like I remembered anything about the 1985-86 team since I wasn’t even two years old at the time. The 2013 Final Four at the Georgia Dome is something I will remember for the rest of my life whether the building still stands or not. Louisville’s two other national championship victories were at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis & Reunion Arena in Dallas. Both no longer stand & the Georgia Dome will soon join them as a memory.

The moral of the story, I suppose, is that we go through our sporting venues pretty quickly these days.

The Falcons are proving to people that they’re the Real McCoy. That vaunted Seahawk defense didn’t do a whole lot to stop Matt Ryan & company last week, and they sit one game away from their first Super Bowl in the twenty-first century. As they are the one team left in the playoffs that hasn’t won the Super Bowl, and hasn’t annoyed people by being in it way too much, I’m pulling for them to get the win and make the trip to Houston. There’s a very good chance they will.

But I get the feeling it’s going to be a lot closer than Falcons fans would care for. You might recall the Falcons defeated Green Bay by one point back on October 30 in the Georgia Dome. This was before we started taking the Falcons seriously, and before Aaron Rodgers saying they had to run the table. A lot has changed since then, but one thing that hasn’t: these are two evenly-matched teams. Take the Packers and Aaron Rodgers in a dome. He does pretty well in those.

Pittsburgh at New England (-6)

afc

It’s Groundhog Day in the AFC. Every single year we’re getting either Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger coming out of this conference in the Super Bowl. Joe Flacco made it through one time, but that was a blip on the radar, an unlikely event the likes of which can’t be predicted and can’t be expected to happen again. As a fan of an AFC team not quarterbacked by one of these people, I am disgusted by the predictability and the repetitiveness of the AFC Championship Game.

I acknowledge, however, that if these teams weren’t involved, a lot of the fans out there complaining about the constant presence of the Patriots & Steelers would complain about the lack of star power in this game. Nobody would have wanted to see Chiefs vs. Texans this week except for Chiefs fans. Patriots vs. Chiefs would have had some legs, but the Chiefs aren’t the draw that the Steelers are.

Let’s face it. Steelers vs. Patriots might not be the game we want, but it’s the game we need.

The Patriots weren’t exactly great against the Texans but still covered the 16 point spread. That tells you what kind of a level they’re on. They haven’t lost since November 13 and have pretty much mowed over everybody in their path. They’re 9-3 against the Steelers since Tom Brady arrived in Foxborough. Picking anybody against them seems foolish, doesn’t it? And it’s only six points! When do you ever get the Patriots and just six points?

The only problem with this whole idea of picking New England…I never pick against the Steelers this time of year. Never. As much as I dislike them, as dirty as they are, they just get the breaks this time of year. Maybe the Patriots get a couple more breaks and it ends up being a blowout, but I think Roethlisberger, Bell & Brown have a much better week this week than they did in Kansas City. They put a lot of pressure on themselves this week with Brown posting the locker room speech, but the Steelers are a team that’s able to rise to the occasion. A lot of teams in this league would wilt under the pressure…they won’t.

Divisional Results: 3-1

Playoff Results: 6-2

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