Wednesday, 19 September, 2018

Vikings arrive in Philly to cheers and jeers

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs celebrates in the end zone after a game winning touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of an NFL divisional football playoff game in Minneapolis Sunday Jan. 14 2018. The Vikings Vikings arrive in Philly to cheers and jeers
Kristopher Love | 21 January, 2018, 02:32

Jalen Ramsey of the Jacksonville Jaguars celebrates after an interception in the first half against the Indianapolis Colts at EverBank Field on December 3, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida. If the Patriots use that tack and it works, it could lead to them continuing their trend of being 2-6 ATS in their last eight AFC Championship Game appearances. Can't do it. Can't take Blake Bortles to go to the Super Bowl over Tom Brady. Championship Sunday should produce two down-to-the-wire games with the defenses stealing the show.

Jacksonville Jaguars (12-6) at New England Patriots (14-3), 3:05 p.m. Ironically, the best prediction is that at some point, both fatalistic fan bases will be telling one another that they are going to lose before the clock runs out (unless it goes into overtime).

Storylines abound in the NFL's final four as we get ready for the conference championship games. BOUYE and JALEN RAMSEY, defensive end Campbell and defensive tackle MALIK JACKSON.

The difference in this game is who wins in the trenches? As we saw in a Week 14 loss at Miami on Monday night, when a defense can pressure Brady, things get interesting. However, the Jaguars still trail on the Super Bowl odds as +650 longshots.

The belief here is that Jacksonville is going to shock the world. Keenum, who set career-highs in attempts (481), completions (325), completion percentage (67.6), yards (3,547), touchdowns (22) and passer rating (98.3) in the regular season, passed for 318 yards in his first career postseason start.

While that formula might work against most teams, it will be hard for the Jaguars to implement their game plan against a disciplined Patriots defense that held the Titans to 14 points on Saturday and held Titans running back Derrick Henry to 28 yards on 12 carries.

The key for the Jaguars will be how they contain running back James White in the passing game, and how they defend Rob Gronkowski.

In addition, last week the Jaguars defense proved how vulnerable it can be against elite offensive talent. Make it 4-for-4 as the Jaguars punch their ticket to their first Super Bowl.

The game starts at 5:40 p.m. Sunday.

These were the two best teams in the NFC this season, so it's no surprise they're here. The off weekend happened in the wild-card round where I went 1-3 ATS and straight up. The dramatic finish that the Vikings were involved in last week could have them heading into Philadelphia a bit flat here, and in turn keep them from reaching their fifth Super Bowl in franchise history. Philadelphia fed off being a home underdog against the Falcons, with a couple of players even wearing dog masks after the win. But against a Vikings defense that can stand up to any offense in the league, the quarterback's absence will loom even larger than it did in the divisional round against the Atlanta Falcons. From Everson Griffen and the line to Eric Kendricks and the linebackers to Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith in the secondary, Minnesota has playmakers at every level.

The Minnesota Vikings, led by quarterback Case Keenum, meet the Philadelphia Eagles, led by quarterback Nick Foles, in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, January 21, 2018 (1/21/18) at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

For the second straight week I'm back on the Eagles bandwagon for the same two reasons - defense and the lack of respect the players are feeling as a 3-point underdog despite playing at home as the No. 1 seed in the NFC.