Well the NFL season has reached its version of the Final Four! Championship Sunday. The AFC Championship is set for 3:00PM Sunday between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New England Patriots while the NFC Championship will follow at 6:30PM pitting the Minnesota Vikings against the Philadelphia Eagles!
Jacksonville at New England
On paper this game looks like a mismatch. The so called experts give Jacksonville only a 25% chance of winning since they are a young, upstart bunch going into a hostile environment against the defending champions and 5 time Super Bowl winning QB Tom Brady. But, as Lee Corso is so fond of saying, “Not so fast my friend”
Tom Brady is arguably one of the greatest QB’s to ever play the game. He is smart, resourceful and runs the NE offense to perfection. He has a beast of a TE in Rob Gronkowski and effective, while not overpowering WR’s. Their running game is sneaky good and if you’re not careful you could find yourself behind by three TD’s before you can blink. The key to beating NE, while not easy to accomplish, is to make Brady uncomfortable. He is 40 years old and has taken a ton of hits over the years and has shown this season a propensity to get rattled a little when forced out of his comfort zone.
The New York Giants showed in two Super Bowls the blueprint to beating NE. Run the ball, control the clock and pressure Brady up the middle WITHOUT blitzing. Edge rushers do no good as he will just step up in the pocket. Blitzing is ineffective as he will dump the ball to the hot receiver in man to man coverage. You must pressure him up the middle, hit him relentlessly and sack him at least 3-4 times.
Jacksonville has the 2nd ranked defense in the NFL and has all the tools to implement the aforementioned game plan. They also have Tom Coughlin as their VP of Football operations and while he is no longer coaching he was the coach of those Giant teams that beat the Patriots. He knows how to get it done.
The other key is Blake Bortles. If the Bortles who played Buffalo shows up Jacksonville will lose. If the Bortles who beat the Steelers shows up they have a fighting chance. They also have a solid running game with Leonard Fournette.
This game will be closer than expected and I think Jacksonville can fire the shot heard round the World!!
Jacksonville 20 New England 17
Minnesota at Philadelphia
This will be a battle, a real knock down drag out fight. Philadelphia has exorcised any fear or trepidation by beating Atlanta last week. They are confident playing at home. Nick Foles, while a game manager at best, can get it done. The difference between this week and last is that last week the Eagles basically told Foles “You will not be the reason we win or lose this game”. They threw a ton of slip screens and short passes and leaned on their defense and running game. This week they are facing the top ranked defense in the league in Minnesota. You cannot run on them with any consistency and Foles WILL be the reason they win or lose. They will have to open it up and stretch the field to keep the Vikings off balance and control the tempo.
The Vikings are playing with house money after last week’s “Minneapolis Miracle”. They are one game away from being the first team in 52 years to play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium. Case Keenum has had a career year and has proved to be an effective and efficient QB. The Viking running game is solid while not spectacular and their WR’s are good but not great. Their whole game plan is to play solid football, don’t turn it over and turn the game over to their defense to win it late.
I’m an old school guy. Run it, stop the run and play great defense by pressuring the QB. The Vikings can do all of that well! Minneapolis here we come!
Minnesota 24 Philadelphia 13
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