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NFL playoff picks: Seahawks, Patriots expected to win conference championships

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Get ready for Championship Sunday with our picks and predictions for the AFC and NFC title games.

We are down to the final four teams in the NFL playoffs, with two intriguing matchups set for what should be a very entertaining Championship Sunday slate. The winners, of course, will advance to play in the Super Bowl on Feb. 1, while the losers will start their offseason vacations.

For the second season in a row both No. 1 seeds -- the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots -- advanced to the conference title games, while the Indianapolis Colts prevented a clean sweep by the favorites with their upset victory over the Denver Broncos last Sunday. Those three teams are joined by the second-seeded Green Bay Packers, who survived a close game against the Dallas Cowboys to advance to the conference championship round.

Both conference championship games are rematches of regular-season contests that were blowouts. The Seahawks routed the Packers, 36-16, in Week 1 at Seattle, and the Patriots downed the Colts, 42-20, on Nov. 16. So it's hardly a surprise that both the Seahawks and Patriots opened as touchdown favorites for this weekend's games, and both home teams are near-unanimous picks by our expert panel to reach the Super Bowl.

Sunday's schedule kicks off with the defending champs hosting the Packers in a rematch of the 2014 season opener. Green Bay is hoping for a better ending this weekend than the 20-point blowout it suffered more than five months ago, but springing the upset won't be easy in Seattle. The Seahawks have won eight straight home playoff games and are 25-2 at CenturyLink Field over the last three seasons. Green Bay has also struggled on the road this season, going 4-4 while being outscored by 17 points in those eight games.

The second game of the day pits the top-seeded Patriots against this year's de facto Cinderella postseason team, the fourth-seeded Colts. Indianapolis is looking for redemption after getting embarrassed by the Patriots two months ago, and although the Patriots are the better team on paper, this game could be a lot closer than many expect. If the Colts' defense plays as well as it did against Denver last Sunday, the underdogs have a legitimate chance to beat the Patriots and pull off another shocker.

As a reminder, these are picks to win the game (not against the spread), so choose wisely and do your research before making your own predictions this week:

Conference Ryan Van Bibber Stephen White Joel Thorman David Fucillo Danny Kelly PFT Commenter Matt Ufford OddsShark Computer
GB vs SEA SEA SEA GB SEA SEA SEA SEA SEA
IND vs NE IND NE NE NE NE NE NE NE

Our panel consists of: David Fucillo, SB Nation's fantasy guru; Danny Kelly, SB Nation NFL contributor; PFT Commenter, SB Nation's hot takes expert; Joel Thorman, SB Nation NFL blogs manager; Matt Ufford, editorial producer, SB Nation studios; Ryan Van Bibber, SB Nation's NFL editor; and Stephen White, retired NFL defensive end and SB Nation NFL contributor.