Editor’s note: Brien is a well-traveled Houstonian and Army Combat Veteran with an extremely wide range of talents and interests including the NFL (Packers), Irish History, and writing. Follow him on twitter @ODonalsVanguard
By BRIEN O’DONAL
And then there were four. Two games remain before the Super Bowl, with four teams coming in hot. I am extremely excited to watch my Green Bay Packers try to figure out how to keep the win streak alive Sunday. Looking at these game I see probably the three best quarterbacks in Brady, Ryan (who should easily win the MVP), and Rodgers playing the best football right now. If you noticed, I left Big Ben off that list. I did that because I can’t quite put him on the same level as the other three in comparison. The difference really is how he tilts the field without being a premier ball tosser. Yes; he makes great throws. Yes, he has so many intangibles that can’t be quantified. And yes, he is such a goon on the field it makes it difficult to bring him down. I believe the Steelers live and die by Antonio Brown and Le’veon Bell. However, I know these quarterbacks will be the deciding factor in the three remaining games this season.
In the NFC Aaron Rodgers is playing at a level no one else can reach. Not even Brady. His ability to move around and be laser accurate has allowed the Packers to get around the fact that Geronimo Allison is receiving significant playing time and Ty Montgomery is his featured back. Rodgers is compensating for a hobbled defense that saw Kentrell Brice making plays in a secondary fighting to keep guys on the field. What he has done in the last eight weeks has been nothing short of phenomenal. The problem is the Falcons will be on the other side of the field this week. Their defense is playing above the X’s and O’s right now and although I don’t see them grinding the Packers to a halt. I believe they can slow that train down just enough to let Matt Ryan and his bullet train pass. Julio Jones, Taylor Gabriel, Mohamed Sanu, Tevin Coleman, Devonta Freeman. How does a defense with so many injuries on the back end stop all those weapons? The answer is they don’t. I love my Packers and I will be cheering for them to prove me wrong but I can’t see it happening. In my mind I think the Falcons will move on to the Super Bowl 35-31.
The AFC should be much more interesting. Tom Brady is a man on a mission and as the end of his career draws closer he is looking like he is doing everything he can to be the greatest of all time. Bill Belichick has already proven he is the greatest head coach of the new millennium and adding another ring will only move him closer to guys like Shula and Lombardi. My only concern is the team on the other side of the field. As great as the Brady/Belichick combo is, they are not the clear juggernaut they were in the regular season. They have beaten some good teams this year, but how much more of a challenge is this playoff Steelers team than anything they have faced so far this year? It’s hard to count out the Patriots, but I am. I look at a Steelers defense that, like the Falcons I mentioned before; is doing enough to slow down the opposing offenses. The difference is that I think the Steelers have better pass rushers than the Falcons and they will make a difference against Brady. Like the Broncos last year proved, Brady may be great against the blitz but a solid 3-5 man pass rush can ruin his day. I think Roethlisberger gets big plays from Le’Veon Bell in the run game and surprisingly; Sammie Coates in the long passing game. Brown will be a factor; no doubt, and in the end I think the weapons the Steelers have allow them to pull out a 24-21 victory.
That means that I am picking the Falcons and the Steelers to play in the Super Bowl. I know; it’s not exciting. The truth is that football is not always that way. Sometimes the teams that make it to the Super Bowl have done so by grinding out one win at a time just a little bit better than the teams they have beaten. That’s really all it is, one game at a time. All four of these teams have been rolling lately and it has taken them to the championship game of their respective conferences. But two teams have to lose this weekend and as good as they are, I don’t think the Packers and the Patriots have enough steam left to push past the Falcons and the Steelers. Once again, I hope at least the Packers prove me wrong because I would love to enjoy the festivities that would come to Houston if they did. Only a few more days of football left this season so let’s all kick back and enjoy the games this Sunday.