Against All Odds: AFC/NFC Championships

Welcome to Against All Odds: AFC/NFC Championships! From the opening weekend of the NCAA football season through Super Bowl LI, Mike Drakulich (PSN), editor of Pittsburgh SportsNation, takes on his father, Michael J. Drakulich (MJD), in picking 10 games against the Vegas spread. 

Teams in Pittsburgh’s local coverage area, Pitt, Penn State, and West Virginia, when they are playing, will always be on the docket among the five NCAA games chosen, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, covered by your favorite Pittsburgh writer for, will be included alongside four other exciting NFL match-ups.

Once Bowl Season arrives, we’ll bring you all 42 games and then continue with the NFL Playoffs.

Itchy vs Scratchy. Black Spy vs White Spy. Cheers vs Gary’s Old Towne Tavern. History is full of rivalries, but none are better than father vs son! Who will rise above the other this season and become the 2016-17 Against All Odds Champion?

With my dad already having sewn up the Odds Championship for 2016-17, it’s all about finishing as far above .500 as possible. Both of us finished with 3-1 records last week and now we move on to the AFC and NFC Championship games. After this Sunday, we’ll have a one week respite before returning for the season finale in choosing the winner of Super Bowl LI.

Usually I hate losing at anything, but when you’re getting whacked by someone whose record in picking against the odds is as good as any expert in the country, all you can do is tip your cap. Plus, it’s my dad, who gave me my never ending love of sports. If he weren’t pretty smart when it came to all of this, why the hell would I be?

For the year, my dad is 115-89, good for a .563 winning percentage. He holds a ten game lead over me with three to play.

Catch you all in two weeks!

Lines as of 1/19/2017


Sunday, January 23rd

NFC Championship

#4 Green Bay (12-6) at #2 Atlanta (12-5), 3:05 pm | Line: Atlanta -4.5

Pick- PSN: Atlanta | MJD: Green Bay

Both teams enter this game as hot as anybody offensively. Earlier this year, the Falcons defeated the Packers 33-32. Neither team’s defenses are anything to write home about, so expect the scoreboard operator to be busy from kickoff. Somewhere along the line, a turnover may be the deciding factor in who heads to Super Bowl LI.

I really think Atlanta can end years of failure and heartbreak and head to Houston. At first glance, my mind tells me that it would be very tough for them to do it by more than 4.5 points against a very resilient Packers team. It’s also awfully tough to beat someone twice in one season when they aren’t a division foe, especially when the two teams involved are so evenly matched.

Matt Ryan will likely be the MVP for the 2016 season. Julio Jones isn’t near 100% but remains dangerous. Taylor Gabriel and Mohamed Sanu are very solid. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman lead a terrific rushing attack. I think these guys will be too much for a wounded Packers team to overcome.

Aaron Rodgers is playing out of his mind right now. He is the sole reason Green Bay will fight and claw to the bitter end. Ty Montgomery is a solid running back both running the ball and catching passes out of the backfield. However, the injuries to Jordy Nelson and Devante Adams are going to put a damper on the passing game, even if those two manage to suit up. Randal Cobb and tight end Jared Cook will have to have monster games.

It will be a helluva game to watch, but this is Atlanta’s year–at least in the NFC, for the 2016 season. The Falcons will advance to their 2nd Super Bowl appearance and await…


AFC Championship

#3 Pittsburgh (13-5) at #1 New England (15-2), 6:40 pm | Line: New England -5.5

Pick- PSN: Pittsburgh | MJD: Pittsburgh 

…A match-up of epic proportions. As amazing as these two franchises have been, they have not faced each other in the playoffs since 2005, that being Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie season in which the Steelers lost to New England 41-27. That happened to be one of the games in question regarding Spygate.

Like the Packers, the Patriots are riding an eight game winning streak, but it is the Steelers who have that beat by one game as they have won nine in a row since dropping four straight early in the year.

The playoffs have been a series of rematches for Pittsburgh, who took care of both Miami and Kansas City as they did so in the regular season. Now the Steelers have a chance to avenge an earlier defeat to the Patriots, whom they played with Landry Jones helming the team in place of an injured Roethlisberger.

There is no doubt of the greatness both Tom Brady and Roethlisberger each possess. This one is special for Roethlisberger, however, as he and the Steelers can exorcise the demons of the past with New England, and head to Houston for a shot at World Championship #7 for Pittsburgh.

The key to this game is going to be Le’Veon Bell. Can the Patriots stop him? If not, that will allow Roethlisberger flexibility in the passing game. Pittsburgh’s offense has been red hot in the postseason, even though they were forced to kick six field goals in their victory over KC, they were virtually unstoppable in moving the ball all game. They played past the 25 yard line seven times.

Brady and the Pats have a great offense, but this time they will be without the services of tight end Rob Gronkowski. I also see them as weaker when they traded away LB Jamie Collins to Cleveland.

Like the NFC Championship, this will be an incredible game filled with big plays and tension into the 4th quarter. But I see this Steelers team rising to the occasion and heading to Houston to face the Atlanta Falcons in their record setting 9th Super Bowl appearance.


Pick Results

MJD: Last Week: 3-1 | Overall: 115-89  .563   —

PSN:  Last Week: 3-1 | Overall: 105-99  .514    10

Author Profile

Mike DrakulichYour source for Pittsburgh sports!
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.

There's nowhere on earth that is more dedicated to its sports teams like Western Pennsylvania and the city of Pittsburgh. The passion and pride of Pittsburgh's fan base is second to no one. From the NFL, NHL, MLB, NCAA football and basketball, to W.P.I.A.L. high school sports, "The City of Champions" has it all!

As Editor of Pittsburgh SportsNation, Mike Drakulich provides top notch opinions and coverage of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pitt Panthers football & basketball, Robert Morris Colonials basketball, and Duquesne Dukes basketball, as well as all sports teams that represent Western Pennsylvania, including WPIAL High School Football.

For a refreshing view of sports, mixed with humor and uncensored opinions, check out Pittsburgh SportsNation today on Facebook, Twitter @PghSportsNation and videos with over 1,000,000 views on YouTube!
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