Football

NFL’s final four looking for a ticket to Super Bowl LI

Packers (12-6) at Falcons (12-5)

2:05 p.m. Sunday, KDFW/4

Line: Falcons by 5 1/2

When Aaron Rodgers told the world that his 4-6 Green Bay team could “run the table,” the assumption was that Rodgers planned to finish the regular season undefeated. Two playoff wins, 21 touchdowns, and one interception later, it’s clear that Rodgers’ aspirations for the Packers were higher. Rodgers, who might be without receiver Jordy Nelson for the second consecutive week, has thrown for 717 yards and six touchdowns in the playoffs. The Packers escaped Dallas last week 34-31. The Packers’ defense hasn’t provided Rodgers much of a crutch, allowing 397 yards per game in the postseason.

While Rodgers cements his legacy, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and his record-setting Atlanta team have been out to do the same. In the same stretch as Green Bay’s streak, Ryan, an MVP front-runner, has thrown 20 touchdowns with two interceptions. The Falcons scored 540 points in the regular season, seventh most all-time. Ryan, who entered last week with a 1-4 record in the postseason, had a 338-yard, three-touchdown performance in a 36-20 win against Seattle. Atlanta’s defense, which allowed an average of 25.4 points in the regular season, has allowed only 19 through its past five games. When these teams met in Week 8, Atlanta won 33-32 in a shootout, and similar results are expected. The Falcons, after spending 25 years in the building, will be playing in their final game in the Georgia Dome.

Key stat: This will be the first game in NFL history in which both teams enter having scored 30 or more points in five consecutive games.

Steelers (13-5) at Patriots (15-2)

5:05 p.m. Sunday, KTVT/11

Line: Patriots by 6

Pittsburgh and New England have more playoff success than any other AFC teams. Between them are 66 playoff wins and nine AFC championships since 2001. This game is just the second playoff matchup between Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The other was in 2004, Roethlisberger’s rookie year. Roethlisberger and Brady have combined for six Super Bowl championships in nine attempts. The Patriots will make their sixth consecutive championship appearance, an NFL record. Brady has completed only 47.9 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and four interceptions in his past two playoff games, a far cry from the 28-to-two touchdown-to-interception ratio he posted in this year’s regular season.

The Patriots’ top-ranked scoring defense (allowing 15.6 points per game) stifled the Houston Texans in a 34-16 win, but will be challenged with finding a way to slow down a Steelers offense led by running back Le’Veon Bell and receiver Antonio Brown, who have both gained 100 or more yards in Pittsburgh’s previous two playoff games. Pittsburgh beat the Kansas City Chiefs 18-16 last week. New England beat Pittsburgh 27-16 in a Week 7 matchup in which Roethlisberger did not play. The winner will make its ninth Super Bowl appearance, an NFL record.

Key stat: Bell has averaged 146.5 rushing yards in his past eight games for the Steelers. The Patriots have not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season.

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