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Kibbles and Picks 2016/17 – Conference Championships

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Ha! In your adorable little face, Stella!

After running the table in the postseason’s first weekend, Stella plummeted back down to Earth; she managed to pick just one of the weekend’s four divisional games correctly; her sole victory was the Patriots.

I, on the other hand, triumphed in both games on which we differed, thanks to a fairly easy Falcons win on Saturday and a nail-biter of a Steelers triumph on Sunday night. I also picked the Pats, while we both chose poorly in selecting the Cowboys to beat the Packers (although I think we both subconsciously knew we’d screwed up).

My 3-1 record versus Stella’s 1-3 means that we’re all tied up for the postseason, sporting identically unimpressive 5-3 marks. This leaves us with relatively little room to make a move as there are just three contests remaining in this NFL season.

As for this weekend’s conference championship games, we are in agreement on one and at odds on the other.

It probably comes as no surprise that we both picked the New England Patriots to come out on top against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’ll freely admit that I’m a Patriots homer, but it’s easy to be a homer when your team also happens to be the top seed in the conference. It won’t be easy – Tom Brady struggled a bit against a surprisingly stout Houston defense and the Pats needed an explosive game out of Dion Lewis to win a game that was considerably closer than the score might indicate.

Stella’s less concerned, attributing most of Brady’s issues to the layoff and bad luck – to her mind, both of his picks were the result of extenuating circumstances. And while Brock Osweiler moved the ball against the New England defense – even with three picks - Stella sees this group as one that plays up (or down) to its opponent’s level. She’s most concerned about Le’Veon Bell, but she has faith in the bend-don’t break ethos of Matt Patricia’s defense.

So yeah – it might be a barnburner, but we both think that Brady and company can and will outscore Big Ben.

As for the other game, well … I’ve never felt less confident picking a favored home team.

I’ve got the Falcons beating the Packers and advancing to the Super Bowl. I have to believe that at some point, Aaron Rodgers and his dark wizardry are going to falter. The law of averages says that he simply can’t continue to do what he’s been doing. And this Atlanta team has looked great – they certainly had little trouble dispatching Seattle. The Falcons defense isn’t stellar, but there’s very little that Green Bay can do to keep them honest via the run game. It’s going to be Rodgers or bust for them, and the reality is that Atlanta’s Matt Ryan has been a pretty darned good QB this season. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers, yes, but they DON’T have a Julio Jones or a Devonta Freeman. There will be a whole lot of points scored, but Atlanta will end up scoring slightly more of them.

Stella – who is usually pretty level-headed about stuff like “intangibles” – has completely bought into the Rodgers phenomenon. She compares it to the notion of a hot goalie in hockey, where one player’s abilities can elevate the rest of the team. You almost never see it in football – the game’s not designed the way – but she believes that Aaron Rodgers is the hot goalie. She likes the Falcons a lot and thinks that their offense will score plenty against the Packers, but she also believes that it’s going to be a tight game – one where it’ll all be on the line in the final minutes. And in that kind of game, she’s going to bet on Aaron Rodgers until he proves her wrong. She’s predicting a finish similar to Packers/Cowboys – up to and including the final outcome.

So there you have it. I’ve made boring picks that I’ll almost surely regret and Stella made selections that she’s pretty sure are going to ensure a postseason victory to go along with her regular season one. Wish me luck.

(winners in caps)

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ALLEN’S PICKS

Sunday, Jan. 22

Green Bay at ATLANTA

Pittsburgh at NEW ENGLAND

Divisional round record: 3-1

Postseason record: 5-3

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STELLA’S PICKS

Sunday, Jan. 22

GREEN BAY at Atlanta

Pittsburgh at NEW ENGLAND

Divisional round record: 1-3

Postseason record: 5-3

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