With a berth in Super Bowl 51 on the line you make the best with what you have. Patch up those wounds for another week, a win affords you can to enjoy a bye week before the national circus. However, you still have one team in the way of glory.
Similar to the divisional round, both games on Sunday will be a rematch of regular season contests.
The number of ProCanes remaining in the playoff have declined drastically with each round, as expected. A talented few remain, all of whom would represent the University of Miami well on the biggest stage in sports.
- Matt Bosher (Punter)
- Artie Burns (Cornerback)
- Anthony Chickillo (Linebacker)
- Ladarius Gunter (Cornerback)
- Herb Waters (WR/CB)
Green Bay Packers AT Atlanta Falcons (Sunday 3:05pm EST)
Their first meeting occurred week 8 of the regular season in a game that turned into an offensive explosion while the defense was nothing more than a whimper throughout. Both Atlanta QB Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers combined to throw for 534 passing yards, 7 TDs and 0 INTs as the Falcons eked out a 33-32 win. Could a repeat performance be in the cards? Certainly. Especially given how hot both QBs have been heading into Sunday.
Busy postseason for Ladarius Gunter.— #BeatATL (@Pack_2017) January 18, 2017
DAL- Dez Bryant
Likely will draw Julio Jones Sunday. pic.twitter.com/WTm3b00gJh
Not much of this is great news for Ladarius Gunter, who is a game away from being a starter for the Packers in Super Bowl LI. Let that sink in a moment. IF he's going to be back-pedalling at Reliant Stadium in a couple weeks he will have lined up against Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant. The latter got the better of him in the divisional round game, but thanks to the sorcery of QB Aaron Rodgers and the clutch field goals of K Mason Crosby he lives to play another down. It would only be fitting that Julio Jones be the next receiver to line up across from Ladarius, serving as the final boss at the end of the hardest level in a video game(with no resets of course). Coming off of a week where Jones won his matchup with Richard Sherman numerous times, Matt Ryan torched a Seahawks secondary that was ailing, they'll one again face another depleted secondary unit in consecutive weeks. As frustrated as Cheesehead fans get about some of the mental errors he makes, Ladarius Gunter is the best cover corner the team can trot onto the field this postseason. That said he is going to need plenty of help along with divine intervention to handle Julio.
Barring a sequel to 1994’s ‘Angels in the Outfield’ aptly titled, "Angels in the Secondary", going from script to reality, look for Gunter to receive some help over top from a safety. The pass rush needs to get home or at least flush Ryan, whose not as mobile as Dak Prescott, out of the comfort of the pocket. Green Bay will still have their hands full trying to defend the entire field. Matt Ryan completed a pass to 8 different receivers a weekend ago, with 7 of whom having at least 2 receptions. So even if Julio is not lined up against Ladarius, every one on the field is a legitimate option on a given play.
The brightside for those cheering for the Yellow and Green is that Julio Jones foot problems flared up a week ago against the Seahawks, forcing him to the locker room earlier than he expected. In their first matchup Jones hauled in 3 receptions for 29 yards and he is as if not less healthy then than he currently is.
Both teams compare somewhat similar across the board, though I would favour the Falcons RBs than Ty Montgomery who is having an excellent run after switching positions. Vic Beasley gets the nod over Clay Matthews, but the substantial differences end there.
Earth, Air ,Fire, Water and the Fifth Element of nature is Aaron Rodgers who has employed the other four elements to will Green Bay on a 8 game win-streak dating back to week 12.
Green Bay CB Herb Waters has yet to record a stat in the postseason.
This game should come down to the final possession given how each team is set up.
Pittsburgh Steelers AT New England Patriots (Sunday 6:40pm EST)
Keeping up with the rematch trend, the AFC Championship will feature two teams who are pretty familiar with one another after having played in week 7 this season where New England took down Pittsburgh 27-16. It wasn't the absence of Big Ben that sealed the Steelers fate, yet the combination of Blount (127 rushing yards) and Gronkowski (93 yards receiving) that led to their downfall that week. This time around Pittsburgh will have Ben Roethlisberger starting at quarterback as opposed to Landry Jones, while the Pats will be without his Gronkness in the grudge match. With Big Ben in the lineup, Antonio "paparazzi" Brown lining up all over the field, and Le'Veon Bell being the hottest running back at the moment, the Steelers should be getting their itinerary prepped for a couple weeks in Houston, right?
Not so fast.
It was a tough start to the day last week for our ProCane corners. CB Artie Burns started last weeks game giving up an opening series TD on a 5-yard pass from QB Alex Smith. However, following that series, the Steelers defense beared down while the Chiefs offense stalled and imploded with mental lapses from star playmakers. Andy Reid's insistence on misdirection, using star rookie WR Tyreek Hill as decoy for much of the evening tested Pittsburgh discipline in sticking to their assignment, reading their keys, trusting the gameplan.
The "Three B's of Pittsburgh" failed to deliver in the money area of the field. Ben, Brown and Bell were all unable to punch the ball across the goal-line last weekend, instead settling for 6 Chris Boswell field goals.
The AFC Conference Championship will see the Steelers try to find a way to disrupt Patriots QB Tom Brady's timing with his wide receivers. Artie is going see more action with this week as he will line up against wide receivers Chris Hogan along with the physical Michael Floyd. It would be a tremendous assist if the Steelers' pass rush can replicate their performance from a week ago. The rush picked up just a single sack against the Chiefs, but did enough to not allow Smith to complete a throw under duress.
Look for Tom 'terrific' to try and pick on Artie who is still just a rookie deep in the NFL playoffs. Among Pittsburg's secondary unit along with fellow rookie safety Sean Davis, Burns has more than held his own against action sent his way. Similar to Ladarius Gunter, Burns would love to be the beneficiary of solid pass rush. LBs Bud Dupree and James Harrison have provided that thus far in the postseason tourney, a fact that New England is well aware of heading into the weekend. The Pats should look to run high tempo on offense, to keep the Steelers on their heels, mess with the substitution strategy in same vain that Aaron Rodgers loves to practice in games.
LB Anthony Chickillo was limited in practice as of the time of this article being posted. Having not played or practiced since Pittsburgh entered postseason play due to a nagging ankle injury, it’s unclear what his role would be should he be active on Sunday.
Chick would add more depth to linebacker unit that could use the bodies especially if the Pats go high-tempo out of the gates. He should also see snaps on special teams.
Notes from around the league
- Unfortunately it does not appear that NT Vince Wilfork will end his career in a similar fashion to Ray Lewis' final ride with the Ravens. If he does decide to file his retirement papers it will conclude a Hall of Fame career that should be a first ballot
- Ken Dorsey is being discussed as OC for the Bills who just hired his former co-worker Sean McDermott as Buffalo's new head coach
- (NSFW) Edgerrin James doesn't appear to be stressing over the Hall of Fame snub. It's Great to be a Miami Hurricane
- Former linebacker now media personality Jonathan Vilma welcomed recruits to The U this week.
- TE Jimmy Graham was named to NFC Roster for the Pro Bowl. He will replace Jordan Reed. Jimmy joins fellow ProCane TE Greg Olsen reppin’ the U Pro Bowl weekend