GREEN BAY over Atlanta by 1

Other than Arthur Blank’s wife, who will likely be on ‘Depends’ detail if this game is as close as we anticipate, the scoreboard operator fi gures to be the busiest person in Atlanta this Sunday. And for good reason: the Falcons have scored a league-best 540 points this season, including 36.6 PPG since their Week 11 bye, while the Packers are tabling over 32 PPG during their eight-game win skein. In fact, the 60.5-point opening number (and rising) is the highest total in NFL playoff history. Thus, with much more than ‘Blanks’ expected to be fi red from the opening kickoff, the question becomes can Matt Ryan (14 TDs, 0 INT last five) match darts with Aaron Rodgers (21 TDs, 1 INT last eight) as the high-fl ying Birds make their fi rst NFC title game appearance since 2005. Atlanta’s 1-5 ATS mark versus greater-than .444 opposition as home chalk under Dan Quinn says no! As does the Falcons’ 3-9 SU and 2-9-1 ATS log in the playoffs following a SU win. And remember: NFL home favorites are a worn-down 20-36-6 ATS after facing Pete Carroll’s Seahawks, including 1-7 ATS from Game 14 out. That doesn’t bode well against a Green Bay group that is 6-1- 2 ATS as a playoff underdog of fewer than 7 points and 5-3 SU and 7-1 ATS as playoff visitors since 2011. In addition, our NFL QB database reminds us that the visitor in Rodgers vs. Ryan rumbles is 5-1 ATS. Adding to the bizarre intrigue is the possible return of Jordy Nelson and the questionable status of Julio Jones. However, before fully taking the ‘Lambeau Leap’, we should point out that the Packers are 7-14 ATS versus the NFC South under Mike McCarthy. Still, we should all ‘Hail’ Rodgers as he improves to 7-1-1 ATS as a playoff dog while the Pack improves to 7-2 SU and 7-1-1 ATS against playoff foes this season. In the immortal words of the late, great Jerry Reed, “When you’re hot, you’re HOT!”

New England over Pitt by 3

After last week’s ‘disappointing’ 18-point win, the Patriots return to the conference title game for an unprecedented sixth straight season. However, it’s this next number that has both the Pats and Steelers licking their chops: the winner goes to the Super Bowl for a record ninth time. Speaking of nine, that’s how many wins Pitt has reeled off since a mid-November loss to Dallas – their fourth straight at the time – saw them drop to 4-5 on the season. Included in those defeats was a 27-16 setback to New England as 7-point HOME DOGS (of course Big Ben did not play). However, the Killer B’s are back at full strength and have even added a fourth member, kicker Chris Boswell. Boswell accounted for all of Pittsburgh’s points (six FGs) in last week’s 18-16 win over KC. And though the Patriots’ offense wasn’t razor sharp in last Saturday’s victory over Houston, seven trips to the red zone without a touchdown won’t work tonight. Not after hearing this jaw-dropping stat: since 1981, home teams who failed in the conference championship game the previous season are 38-4 SU and 30-11-1 ATS as playoff hosts the following season. And when these same teams fi nd themselves favored by more than 4 points, they zoom to 34-1 SU and 26-8-1 ATS. Then why aren’t we smiling with Tommy Veneer, who is a polished 15-3 SU at home in the playoffs, including 8-0 SU against .722 or better opposition? Especially with Brady 6-2 SU and 5-2-1 ATS in his heads-up duels with Roethlisberger, including 3-0 SU and 2-0-1 ATS in Foxborough. Simple – the Pats are just 1-6 ATS in their last seven conference title tilts while the Steelers are 7-1-1 ATS in their last nine roles as playoff road dogs… not to mention 2-0 SUATS in AFC Championship games under Mike Tomlin. Thus, the AFC’s version of the white-hot Packers secures our vote to claim the ATS payout.