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Let’s Talk About the NBA MVP Race
It’s been long believed here that the NBA MVP will come down to Russell Westbrook and James Harden, who have dominated the news and stat lines all season. Now in the second half of the season, it’s time to start forecasting who will win the MVP award.
Westbrook leads the NBA with a PER of 29.92, and the 20 triple-doubles we all know about. His 30.9 points per game tops the league, and his 10.7 rebounds per game are more than any player under 6’10”.
Harden actually has more double-doubles (35) than Westbrook (33), leads the league with 382 free throws made and 450 attempts (84.9%), and his Rockets sit at 32-11, six-and-a-half games better than Westbrook’s Thunder (25-17).
My thoughts? Westbrook will end up winning and the triple-double numbers will carry his case, although the Rockets being a better team will keep Harden alive in the race.
AFC Championship – Can Anyone Stop the Patriots?
The New England Patriots are nearly unbeatable at home, having won eight of their previous nine playoff games at Gillette Stadium. Add in the fact that Tom Brady can only improve upon his performance against the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round (18-of-38 passing, 68.6 passer rating), and you’ve got an easy path to take the Patriots to the Super Bowl.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have other thoughts. Their defense has turned it up in the playoffs, allowing 532 yards in two games; 419 in the air, and 113 on the ground. Against the Patriots in Week 7, the Steelers allowed 140 rush yards in a 27-16 loss. They’ll need to click on all cylinders to top the Patriots, and even then, New England is probably too good.
The Patriots reach their ninth Super Bowl in franchise history with a win over the Steelers.
NFC Championship – Who Wins the Shootout?
Everyone will want to talk about the offenses in this game, but keep an eye on the Green Bay defense, too. During their eight-game win streak, they have 18 takeaways, compared to 10 takeaways in the first 10 games of the season. Alternatively, the offense has only two turnovers during their table-running streak, compared to 16 turnovers in the first 10 games of the season.
After coming into the 2016-17 season with the toughest schedule in the NFL, the Falcons ended up playing only four playoff teams in the regular season; a 35-28 victory against Oakland in Week 2, a 26-24 loss against Seattle in Week 6, a 33-32 win against Green Bay in Week 8, and a 29-28 loss against Kansas City in Week 13. Rarely have they been tested, and they’re going up against as hot a team as they’ve faced all season.
It will be a high-scoring, intense game to close out the Georgia Dome. The Packers move on to keep their streak going.
Matt Tardiff is the resident stathead at ChinMusicPod.com, and if you tweet at him, he’ll give you stats on just about anything. Find him on Twitter @StatTardiff. As always, check back next Tuesday for more stats.