TV Schedule: Sunday, January 22, 6:40 p.m. ET, CBS
Stadium: Gillette Stadium
Does it get any better than this when it comes to pure entertainment? Not only will fans get to witness the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons battling it out in the 2017 NFC Championship, but they will also get to see the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots duking it out in the 2017 AFC Championship. The winners will, of course, move on to the Super Bowl, which is known as the biggest stage in sports. January 22 can’t come soon enough.
For this article, let’s focus in on the AFC title game.
First things first, let’s take a look at the streaks.
New England enters this clash on an eight-game winning streak while Pittsburgh has now won nine games in a row. While neither team is coming off of its most dominating performance of the season, it’s all about surviving and advancing at this stage of the game.
The Patriots made it this far by taking care of business against the Houston Texans. When it was all said and done, they had a 34-16 victory on their hands. Meanwhile, the Steelers have already taken down the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs.
If this matchup has a familiar feeling, that’s because it should. These squads met up on October 23. In that contest, New England came out on top by the score of 27-16. Of course, and this is important to note, star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did not play in that game.
Before we talk Steelers football, let’s talk about the Patriots and how dominant they have been over the years.
According to ESPN, “The Patriots have advanced in the postseason for six straight seasons to tie the Dallas Cowboys (1991-96) for the most consecutive seasons advancing in the postseason.”
Not to mention, “Brady will play in his 11th AFC Championship game, moving past Gene Upshaw (10) and George Blanda (10) for most appearances in a conference title game by any player in NFL history.”
Tom Brady now has more playoff wins than TWENTY-SEVEN teams. pic.twitter.com/JwngnlMFpk— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) January 15, 2017
For all it’s worth, New England only allowed 15.6 points per game this season, which is the best mark in the NFL. The offense wasn’t too shabby either (of course it wasn’t, the Pats have Tom Brady) as it put up 27.6 points per game, which was the third-best mark in the sport.
While all eyes will be on head coach Bill Belichick and Brady, there will be talent all over the football field when these teams meet up, and players like Dion Lewis likely won’t go under the radar.
Dion Lewis is the 1st player in NFL postseason history to have a Rush TD, Rec TD and Kick Return TD in a single playoff game. pic.twitter.com/GuOEG2cFhF— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 15, 2017
And now, let’s talk Steelers football.
The buzz has been surrounding the Killer B’s — Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger, and Le’Veon Bell — all season long, and that will once again be the case for this contest.
Take your pick with those three. They could all go off for monster games. With that in mind, Bell might be the most dangerous man in football. His unique style of stopping, analyzing the situation, and then making his move likely throws off opposing defenses every time. His stats would surely agree. Bell has already recorded a combined 337 rushing yards in just two playoff games. The scary part? The Steelers haven’t really involved him much in the passing attack. Bell recorded 616 receiving yards in 2016. Reminder: He is a running back.
Brown is arguably the best receiver in the NFL, and he has been holding up his end of the bargain so far in the playoffs as he has recorded back-to-back 100-yard performances.
Roethlisberger is the guy who puts it all together, and he is one of the best signal-callers in the league. However, he didn’t record a single touchdown in Pittsburgh’s 18-16 victory over the Chiefs (Pittsburgh had six field goals). The quarterback already has three interceptions in the playoffs, so just imagine how deadly this team can be if he cleans up in the turnover department.
On the season, Pittsburgh averaged 24.9 points per game and gave up 20.4 in the process. In the 2017 NFL playoffs, however, the Steelers are only allowing 14 points per contest.
Both squads have the weapons and talent to win a Super Bowl. They have already made it this far, after all. While Brady and Belichick have been here so many times before, and will get to play this game at home, the 2017 AFC Championship game is wide open.
If Bell has yet another monster game and Roethlisberger cuts down on the interceptions while replacing them with touchdowns, then no one should be surprised if Pittsburgh makes yet another Super Bowl. Of course, Brady & Co. are more than capable of racking up the points as well.
Roethlisberger has already won two Super Bowls and Brady has four to his name. Which quarterback will further his greatness — and legacy — in this year’s version of the AFC Championship?
PREDICTION: Steelers 31, Patriots 28
[Featured Image by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images]