NFL Championships: The Cajun Cannon & Big Chief make their picks

NFL Championships: The Cajun Cannon & Big Chief make their picks

NFL Championships: The Cajun Cannon & Big Chief make their picks

Brady said the change in the Steelers' defense from Week 7 is stark. In seven career meetings against the Mike Tomlin-led Steelers, Brady has now thrown 22 touchdowns without a single interception.

Gostkowski initiated the scoring with a 47-yard field goal that came after the Patriots forced a Steelers three-and-out on the opening drive of the second half. That can't happen this week.

Steelers linebacker James Harrison has 2½ sacks and a forced fumble in two playoff games. (So much for the Brady suspension costing them home-field advantage.) Pats fans are among the most rowdy, raucous and ribald in all of sports, and they're particularly rambunctious when they feel aggrieved.

Things won't be as easy for Bell in the AFC Championship game against the Patriots. Instead of settling for the 32-24 lead, Seattle went for two, but failed.

While Pittsburgh's line includes two Pro Bowl selections in Pouncey and DeCastro, others have flown largely under the radar, including a banged-up Gilbert who has played through a slew of bumps and bruises.

New England's defense, which ranked third against the run during the regular season, ought to present a stiffer challenge. New England offensive tackles Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon have been phenomenal all season. They have already won a thriller against the Packers this season, and the Falcons have belief. In general, most coaches, even revolutionary ones like Bill Belichick, tend to be conservative in crunch time situations.

Brady was banned by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell when New England (16-2) went 3-1 to open the schedule.

Pittsburgh lost 27-16 when they hosted New England on October 23, but Roethlisberger missed the game with a knee injury. Because I think the Falcons Offense has too much power for Green Bay to miss points on any given possession in the game. On Sunday, they'll meet to determine which of them will have a shot at another. If it works they quiet a restless crowd. They're the favorites to defeat the Steelers in Foxborough this week and also the current Super Bowl favorites.

His first score made it 10-0 and came after Brady could have taken a nap before throwing, a common occurrence against a nonexistent pass rush. It's understandable that the coaches might be afraid of leaving the unit in a compromised position.

On Friday, after the Patriots' final full practice, Malcolm Butler - the Patriots' top cornerback and goal-line hero two years ago in the Super Bowl - was asked if the Patriots have something to prove, in light of this information. This year's top-ranked National Football League defense, Houston, was the only one of the top four defensive teams even to reach the playoffs.

Here are five of them - the five most important x-factors of this big AFC showdown.

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