NFL Playoffs – Conference Championship Preview: Can Brady Reach Eighth Super Bowl?5 min read
If anyone tells you they saw the line-up for this weekend coming they are lying to you. One of either Case Keenum or Nick Foles will be a Super Bowl quarterback by end of play Sunday. Tom Brady provides us with a name brand, but who saw Blake Bortles coming to depose him? Needless to say, the season continues to get weirder and weirder.
If you managed by now to recover from the Divisional round, then we’ve broken down everything you need to know as we prepare to finally find out who will be playing in Super Bowl 52.
AFC Championship Game – Jacksonville Jaguars @ New England Patriots (Sun 21st Jan: 8.05pm Sky Sports Action)
Jaguars fans look away now, but the Patriots open this one as 7.5 point favourites, and rightly so. Jacksonville have a great pass defence, and can clearly rush the quarterback; however, tales of their defensive dominance have been greatly exaggerated. What happens to this supposedly Super Bowl calibre defence on the road? Over their last four away games they have allowed an average of 32 points per game – that’s not dominant at all.
Blake Bortles managed to play well enough against the Steelers to get the Jaguars over the line in a shootout, but I said last week that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick doesn’t lose to teams with an obvious weakness, and Jacksonville simply doesn’t have a good enough pass offense. Bortles has survived on play-action passes alone so far in the playoffs, and that won’t cut it in New England.
Combine that with the Patriots current six-game home winning streak, in which they have outscored their opponents by an average of 17.3 points, and this one might get ugly. The only way I see the Jaguars winning is if Tom Coughlin really has sold his soul to be the bane of Belichick’s career.
Total points over 46.5
New England Patriots to score in every quarter
New England Patriots winning margin 13-18 points
NFC Championship Game – Minnesota Vikings @ Philadelphia Eagles (Sun 21st Jan: 11.40pm Sky Sports Action)
This game might be a little harder to call.
On the back of a genuinely miraculous win last week, the Vikings open as 3-point road favourites against the number-1 seeded Eagles. But this isn’t the Eagles who took the NFL by storm this year; not without Carson Wentz. I picked them against the Falcons last week because they had a great matchup against a run first offense, but they don’t get that with Minnesota.
Case Keenum finished the season with 22 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions, and has one of the league’s most dynamic receiving corps at his disposal. The Eagles secondary is their slight weakness, and I think Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs will prove too much for them to handle.
I’ll take the Vikings to win by a touchdown, leading them to the first ever ‘home’ Super Bowl in NFL history.
Minnesota Vikings -3 point handicap
Adam Thielen anytime touchdown scorer
Philadelphia Eagles total points under 18
Most conference championship passing yards – Case Keenum
Most conference championship rushing yards – Jay Ajayi
Highest scoring conference championship team – New England Patriots