This season’s four remaining teams — New England, Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Atlanta — are proof that the
While each of those teams has had its moments defensively, it's offensive prowess that has gotten them this far.
In the late game, it’s Pittsburgh at New England, a familiar showdown between quarterbacks
The Patriots finished with the eighth-ranked defense, followed by the Steelers (12th), Packers (22nd) and Falcons (25th).
Both championship games are rematches from the first half of this season.
Atlanta held off the visiting Packers, 33-32, in Week 8 when Ryan hit
Rodgers threw four touchdown passes in that game, but he was not yet on the torrid tear he has enjoyed in leading his team on its current eight-game winning streak.
Until he was picked off in Sunday's game at Dallas, Rodgers had gone 318 passes without an interception, a span of two full months.
"It's a different energy with this team," he said Sunday. "I think the guys are very hungry, which we didn't have at times in the past when we tried to make the playoffs. There's a stronger belief."
There's plenty of belief in Ryan, too, who was phenomenal in Saturday's victory over Seattle. The Falcons had just 11 turnovers all season, tied for the fewest in the league.
By beating the
In the 2010 playoffs, when Green Bay went from No. 6 seed all the way to Super Bowl champion, the Packers pounded Atlanta in the divisional round, 48-21. Green Bay never punted in that game, and Rodgers was masterful, completing 31 of 36 for 366 yards with three passing touchdowns and one on the ground.
The Patriots and Steelers are familiar foes, playing 10 times in the combined eras of Brady and Roethlisberger. However, this will mark the first time they have met in the playoffs since Roethlisberger's rookie season of 2004, when the Patriots rolled to a 41-27 victory in the AFC championship game.
The Patriots have won seven of their last 10 meetings with Pittsburgh — including a 2008 game when
On Sunday, Pittsburgh will once again face its former running back, New England’s
The Patriots, who had a first-round bye, have won eight in a row. The Steelers' winning streak has reached nine, and they have outscored those opponents, 233-149.