There is little doubt the offenses (and the quarterbacks) are the stars in the NFL’s Final Four, which will kick off with a doubleheader Sunday afternoon.
And while we know that either the Packers or Falcons will face the Steelers or Patriots in Super Bowl 51 next month, the playoffs have already shown that underdog or favorite — anything can happen.
As we prepare for two more weeks of football before a long offseason, here are the five most interesting match ups to pay attention to:
1. Atlanta’s offense vs. Green Bay’s defense
First a match up that is extremely one-sided. The Falconsled the entire NFL in points scored per game with 33.8 points. (The third and fourth best offenses by that metric are also in the NFL’s Final Four, with the Packers and Patriots ranking at those spots respectively.) The Packers have the second worst passing defense statistically in the NFL and allow 24 points per game.Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and company should be drooling over the chance to go up against the Green Bay unit.
2. Pittsburgh, New England defenses
Seemingly under the radar, the Patriots and the Steelers have imposingly solid defensive corps, boasting the fewest (15.6 ppg) and seventh fewest (19.7 ppg) in the entire NFL during the regular season. The Pats and Steelers are also each in the NFL’s top seven in turnover margin per game and each could play a much larger role in a game most expect to be a battle between Super Bowl winning quarterbacks.
3. Aaron Rodgers vs. the world
There are plenty of statistics that can be tossed around about Aaron Rodgers and his absolutely inhuman and prolific performance over the last two months, but stats don’t really matter when it comes to Rodgers. Whether it’s hurling a successful Hailmary pass with ease against the Giants or an improbably sideline bullet to Jared Cook to shock the Cowboys in Dallas, Rodgers has been unstoppable. Good luck Falcons D.
4. Le’Veon Bell vs. New England rush defense
Two of the NFL’s best will go toe-to-toe in Foxboro Sunday when Le’Veon Bell tries to run through the Patriots run defense. During the regular season New England allowed fewer than 90 yards per game on the ground. Bell has run for 337 yards over his last two playoff games and in eight regular season games prior has averaged more than 140 yards per game. Something will obviously have to give, as Pittsburgh will undoubtedly be doing its best to keep the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands.
5. QBs vs. Conference championship game
For all the star power and 10 Super Bowl appearances represented by the four starting quarterbacks still alive, they have historically posted some pretty bad individual numbers in conference championship games. Whether it was due to happenstance or to some kind of pressure-fueled letdown, the numbers don’t lie. With a small sample size, Ryan actually has played the best in the second-biggest stage in football. Here’s a look:
- Rodgers: 1-1 record, 55.6 QB rating, 1TD, 4 INT,211 yards per game
- Brady: 6-4 record, 76.3 QB rating, 12 TD, 12 INT, 15 sacks, 237 yards per game
- Roethlisberger:3-1 record,81.8 QB rating,5 TD, 5 INT, 222yards per game
- Ryan: 0-1 record, 114.8 QB Rating, 3 TD, 1 INT,396 yards