NFL Championship Picks – Two tickets to Super Bowl LII up for grabs
By Drew Farmer
Just one NFL Playoff game separates four teams from Super Bowl LII. The Jacksonville Jaguars are hot off an upset win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jags go into Foxborough to play the New England Patriots on Sunday. Can Jacksonville complete two improbable upsets in back-to-back NFL Playoff rounds?.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings head to the Philadelphia Eagles. Unlike the AFC Championship Game, the NFC Championship Game features the two best teams from the conference's regular season.
Two teams will stamp their tickets to the Super Bowl on February 4th. Which two teams will survive the NFL Championship Round?.
AFC Championship Game
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots
Jacksonville completely dominated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first half of their AFC Divisional Round game. The Jags outscored the Steelers 28-14, but the second half was a completely different story. Jacksonville's defense allowed 28 Pittsburgh points, and Ben Rothlisberger tossed five touchdowns for the Steelers. Luckily, the Jags held on for a 45-42 win. Against the Patriots, the Jaguars offense will go back into hiding as the Patriots defense will be much harder to crack at Foxborough.
Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles only threw one touchdown and 214 yards in the Divisional Round. The team got by without relying too heavily on its recently inconsistent quarterback. The Jags did ride running back Leonard Fournette hard. Fournette scampered for 109 yards on 25 carries. He also found the end zone three times.
New England will focus its attention on Fournette. The team's defense will attempt to stop the run and make Bortles beat it through the air. It is difficult to believe Bortles can pass Jacksonville to the Super Bowl. Bortles only threw 26 passes against the Steelers. Of the four quarterbacks who played in the AFC Divisional Round, Bortles threw the fewest passes.
The Patriots have played in the last six AFC Championship Games, and this marks the team's seventh. Tom Brady and company know what it takes to win the big game. The Patriots are the best run organization in the NFL, and professionalism oozes from the franchise. Heading into the game, the Patriots have history on their side. The team is 10-1 against the Jaguars all-time. It has been nearly 20 years since the Jaguars last defeated the Patriots.
With the Patriots track record and the inconsistencies of Bortles, New England should fulfill its tag as favorites for the AFC Championship Game.
Prediction: New England Patriots
NFC Championship Game
Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The NFC Championship Game could have easily seen the Atlanta Falcons facing off against the New Orleans Saints. The ‘Miracle in Minnesota' saw the Minnesota Vikings miraculously continue their NFL season. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles defense kept the team's Super Bowl dream alive as the Eagles offense sputtered in the NFC Divisional Round. It took two second half field goals and a defensive shutout for the team to advance.
Confidence can't be high going into Sunday's game for the Eagles. Nick Foles didn't throw a touchdown pass against the Falcons. He didn't throw an interception either, but the backup quarterback looks unlikely to lead the Eagles to the NFL's showpiece final. With Foles under center, the Eagles go into the NFC Championship Game as the underdogs. It is the second straight week the team has been tagged as the underdogs. Although the Eagles will play at home, it shows just how little faith the sports books have in Foles.
Minnesota's defense is one of the main reasons it is one game away from Super Bowl LII. The team gave up the fewest points per game during the regular season (15.8). The Eagles were fourth best in the regular season giving up a mere 18.4. But the biggest difference in Sunday's game will be the offenses. Although the Vikings scored fewer points per game, the team has a confident quarterback in Case Keenum. He threw 22 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He was the offense's leader for 14 regular season games and last week's playoff win. Foles only became the Eagles starter when quarterback Carson Wentz went down with injury. He would have won the NFL MVP award had he not be injured.
Perhaps the Eagles could be saved by the weather. It has been cold and snowy in Philadelphia recently. It is expected Centurylink Field's turf will be poor and footing will be bad. This can play into the Eagles' hands as Minnesota are used to playing indoors on AstroTurf. But despite the weather, the Vikings do come into the game as the best team left in the NFC Playoffs.