NFL Conference Championship Recap: Disappointing playoffs reach final stage

Green Bay Packers' Aaron Ripkowski fumbles the ball during the first half of the NFL football NFC championship game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

The 2016-17 NFL season has not been kind to public perception. Reports of lower ratings spread across media outlets, unnecessary fines for celebrations, deflated footballs and cleats, frustrated fans, players continued to get into trouble off the field and it seemed that every primetime game was a blowout. We all hoped the playoffs would be better.

They weren’t.

This weekend’s Conference Championships were just as one-sided as the rest of the playoffs and didn’t provide fans outside of Atlanta and New England with much excitement. The Falcons “rose up” over the Packers in a dominant 44-21 offensive outburst, and the Patriots continued to be the Patriots against their first tough competition in months, defeating the Steelers 36-17.

Two games that were supposed to be great matchups between historically great quarterbacks turned into blowouts that were over halfway through the third quarter or earlier. Undrafted wide receiver Chris Hogan looked like pre-Miami yacht Odell Beckham Jr. against the Steelers’ defense. The Falcons’ sixth-worst scoring defense in the NFL held the almighty Aaron Rodgers scoreless in the first half. Neither game lived up to what we all thought – and hoped – it would be.

This has been the story of the entire playoffs. There have been TWO games all playoffs that were decided by less than 13 points. Of those two games, only the instant-classic between Dallas and Green Bay was truly an enjoyable game to watch. The other, the Chiefs vs. Steelers game that ended in a missed two-point conversion, was a game resulting in a Steelers win despite not scoring a touchdown. Not what you’d call exciting football.

This postseason, teams have won by an average of 15.7 points, which is the largest margin of victory in 14 years and much higher than last year’s 11.3 average margin of victory. And it’s not because of outliers that skew the margin up – the largest margin of victory was Green Bay’s 25 point win over the Giants. Each game seems to quickly have a 2-3 touchdown deficit, and none of the losing teams led us to believe they could make a comeback at any point in the second half.

We want to convince ourselves there’s hope for Super Bowl LI. Falcons vs. Patriots, the best offense in the league against the best defense. Now that the glory of Aaron Rodgers is out of the picture, the mainstream media and casual fans alike are starting to realize how out-of-his-mind Matt Ryan has played over the past six weeks (all season, really). Ryan’s superb play combined with the Falcons’ overall dominance on Sunday will lead to two weeks of hype for a high-powered, closely contested Super Bowl. Something we all need after the past three weeks.

But don’t get your hopes up. More than likely, Brady, Belichick and the Patriots are going to steamroll over the Falcons. A fitting end to the absolutely awful competition of the 2017 NFL Playoffs.


Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at joshua.buser@uconn.edu.