The 2017 Super Bowl is all about legacy.
Most championship games are, though this one feels a bit a different. So it goes when Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady are the quarterbacks left standing ahead of championship weekend.
While pegged as the ultimate team-based sport, those four names paint the importance of the quarterback position loud and clear. Now one of them will eventually hoist a Lombardi Trophy, furthering their legacy while boasting a triumph over the others.
Las Vegas feels a certain way about how things might play out. Armed with the right information, bettors and fans are free to form their own informed predictions.
NFL Playoffs: Championship Weekend
|Game||Date||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream||Point Spread||Prediction|
|Green Bay at Atlanta||Jan. 22||3:05 p.m.||Fox||Fox Sports Go||ATL (-5.5)||GB 33-30|
|Pittsburgh at New England||Jan. 22||6:40 p.m.||CBS||CBSSports.com||NE (-4.5)||NE 30-27|
|Author's predictions, OddsShark|
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Rodgers vs. Ryan is what most fans should have wanted out of the NFC.
Sure, Russell Wilson is fun to watch. Dak Prescott is a good story. But few have the ability to post the mind-boggling numbers Rodgers and Ryan do with ease.
Look at Rodgers—eight straight wins, with 21 touchdowns and one pick over that streak. In total, 40 touchdowns against seven interceptions, the former his highest mark since 45 in 2011. And keep in mind that he's doing this all while accommodating a defense allowing 24.3 points and 363.9 yards per game.
Ryan threw 38 scores with as many picks as Rodgers this year. The Falcons have won five in a row while he's thrown 14 touchdowns with no interceptions. Rodgers bested the strong Dallas Cowboys, Ryan the equally strong Seattle Seahawks.
As Pro Football Focus noted, both men rank only behind Tom Brady:
It's tough to describe the NFC title game as merely a showdown between Ryan and Rodgers. Plenty of other players and details will have an impact. But that's what it is—when these teams met in Week 8, a 33-32 win for the Falcons, Ryan and Rodgers combined for seven touchdown passes and no interceptions.
Little will change in the rematch. Both teams won't find much success trying to run the ball and control the pace, nor will the defense see consistent rest on the sideline. This will be a sprint to the finish like the first game, with the main difference being the health around Rodgers, who didn't have Jared Cook or Randall Cobb on the field for the first dance.
That, plus Rodgers' unbelievable form right now, will make all the difference.
Prediction: Packers 33-30
Brady vs. Roethlisberger feels like old friends getting together.
As most should have expected, Brady stormed back from a four-game suspension to insert himself into the MVP conversation (whether voters want to give him the award is another conversation entirely), throwing 28 touchdowns and just two interceptions over 12 games. New England lost once during that span.
To his credit, Big Ben played through injuries this year, though he's the weakest of the four playoff quarterbacks going into championship weekend. He struggled on the road all year, which continued in the divisional round, an 18-16 win against the Kansas City Chiefs in which he threw one interception.
This clearly creates a tall task for Big Ben, especially considering that Brady happens to own the Steelers under certain circumstances, as illustrated by ESPN Stats & Info:
Brady provided an interesting wrinkle to this matchup last week in the 34-16 stomping of the Houston Texans, throwing a pair of scores and interceptions. Not too interesting, though—Houston ranked second against the pass during the regular season, Pittsburgh 16th. Brady dropped 222 yards and a pair of scores on the Steelers away from home earlier this year.
At home, Brady should cruise to a big day. Le'Veon Bell will keep the Steelers close, but asking a running back to keep pace with Brady is a recipe for a loss.
Prediction: Patriots 30-27
Super Bowl 2017
In this hypothetical scenario, Rodgers slips past Ryan and Brady does the same to Big Ben, which seems about right given the experience factors and current momentum of all four.
Those picking this matchup can't go wrong either way. New England has looked shaky of late, with Bill Belichick even telling his players they didn't play well enough against Houston to win the AFC title, per USA Today's Henry McKenna.
But then again, the Patriots have done their damage this year mostly without Rob Gronkowski and after trading away defensive stalwarts such as Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins.
If one wants to go in the other direction, Rodgers' ability to compensate for a lax defense and continue on a tear perhaps unlike anything the NFL has seen makes for a great choice.
As of now, going against Rodgers seems like grasping at straws for attention. New England sputtered slightly last time out despite arguably the easiest path, so Green Bay gets the nod in what is sure to be a close game.
Prediction: Packers 27, Patriots 24
Follow Chris Roling (@Chris_Roling) on Twitter.