Falcons, Patriots favored at home over GB, Pittsburgh

Dion Lewis and the Patriots defeated the Texans, 34-16, to advance to their sixth straight AFC Championship Game.

Published on Tuesday, 1/17/17, at 12:45 p.m. Eastern.

The NFL’s version of the Final Four has arrived. Atlanta, Green Bay, New England and Pittsburgh are still standing.

In other words: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan.

Brady: The Greatest QB ever! (This, by the way, is not even a conversation and if it was, it wouldn’t include Peyton Manning!)

Rodgers: Guaranteed Hall of Famer.

Roethlisberger: Likely Lock to be in Canton one day, owner of two rings and three trips to the Super Bowl.

Ryan: Heavily favored to win this year’s MVP honors after a career-best season. Potential Hall of Famer, especially if he guides the Falcons to their first Super Bowl victory in organization history.

Atlanta will host the NFC Championship Game for the second time in four years Sunday when it takes on Green Bay at 3:05 p.m. Eastern on FOX. As of early Thursday afternoon, the Falcons were favored by 4.5 points with a total of 61, the highest in NFL postseason history. The Packers were +175 on the money line (risk $100 to win $175).

Dan Quinn’s team advanced by thumping Seattle by a 36-20 count as a six-point home favorite. The 56 combined points went ‘over’ the 51-point total. In doing so, the ‘over’ improved to 14-2-1 overall in Atlanta games and 9-0 in its home contests.

Matt Ryan threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. Julio Jones had six catches for 67 yards and one TD, while Devonta Freeman produced 125 yards from scrimmage on 18 touches.

Atlanta starts four rookies on defense. One of them, Keanu Neal, had a team-best nine tackles against the Seahawks, while Deion Jones had 5 tackles and one interception. Neal and Jones were the Falcons’ first and second round picks out of Florida and LSU, respectively.

The Falcons, who have +260 odds to win Super Bowl XLI, lost one key player to injury vs. Seattle. Veteran DE Adrian Clayborn (5 sacks) suffered a bicep injury that’ll keep him out for the rest of the playoffs.

Green Bay won a 34-31 thriller at top-seeded Dallas as a five-point road underdog. Mason Crosby buried 56 and 51-yard field goals in the last 1:33 to lift the Packers past the Cowboys. The walk-off 51-yarder as time expired was set up by an incredible pass from Aaron Rodgers, who threw a missile to Jared Cook for a 36-yard completion while scrambling to his left. It was one of the sickest throws you’ll ever see, one that will haunt Dallas fans for decades. Cook, who was a stellar college tight end at South Carolina for Steve Spurrier when he was healthy, made a remarkable grab on the sidelines, barely keeping both feet in with a beautiful toe tap.

Green Bay has won eight in a row while going 7-1 against the spread. The Packers lost a 33-32 decision at Atlanta during the regular season, but they did take the cash as three-point underdogs.

Rodgers threw a pair of TD passes at Dallas, but he was intercepted for the first time since Nov. 13. In his team’s last nine games, he has a 24/1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

New England advanced to the AFC Championship Game by beating Houston 34-16, while Pittsburgh eliminated second-seeded Kansas City by winning 18-16 at Arrowhead Stadium as a two-point road underdog. The Steelers have won nine in a row while going 7-1-1 ATS.

The Patriots were favored by 5.5 points with a total of 50.5 as of early Thursday. They remain the ‘chalk’ at the future book (+140). Meanwhile, the Steelers and Packers share +400 odds to lift the Lombardi Trophy in Houston.

I went 4-1 with my NFL picks last week to improve to 6-2 in the playoffs. Since Oct. 23, my NFL picks have cashed at a 42-24 clip (64%, +15.4 UNITS!). Don’t miss out on my two side selections for this weekend. I may add one or both totals before Saturday.

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