It is finally Championship Weekend and four teams will have a chance it make to Super Bowl LII on February 4th in Minnesota. I went 1-3 in my picks last week and hopefully I can make up for it with predictiong these results correctly. The Jaguars will be traveling to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots and Tom Brady. Also, the Minnesota Vikings will be taking on the Philadelphia Eagles and Nick Foles. The conference championship is at stake and the loser goes home for vacation while the winner gets a chance to take home the gold in the Lombardi Trophy. The mistakes are magnified, the coaching criticized, every play intensifies, and the crown becomes energized. With all of this said, let’s get into each pick.
Patriots 23, Jaguars 20; 3:05pm CBS
The Patriots have a really good chance of advancing to the Super Bowl yet again, but they will have a tough task ahead of them in the Jacksonville Jaguars. Their defense, Sacksonville, will make very difficult for Tom Brady and Co. Brady will need to pick apart the defense by first establishing the run to set up the play-action game. Brady has several weapons at his disposal with Dion Lewis, James White, Mike Gillislee and could be getting back the “Swiss army knife” in Rex Burkhead after he suffered an injury. Brady will also have to get rid of the ball quickly since the Jags defense can get to the him quickly. And on the defensive side of the ball, the Pats will have a similar blueprint this week like the one they used against Marcus Mariota last week by keeping a spy on Blake Bortles so that he stays in the pocket. They will also have to stop the run by stacking 8 men in the box and finally, they will have to use a lot of man coverage to force Bortles to throw in tight coverage. This should be enough for the Pats to win the game, but the Jags won’t go down without a fight.
As for the Jags, the key for an upset win will be hitting Brady a lot to get him unsettled. The more Brady gets hit, the more he frustrated he gets. Since they have Tom Coughlin in the building, he’ll likely give pointers to the defensive staff on how to defend Brady, like the first point before this sentence. They also have to play a lot of man coverage since Brady exploits zone coverage with ease. The Jags will also benefit from forcing 3 and outs and forcing turnovers to set up good starting field position for Blake Bortles and the offense. Speaking of the offense, Blake Bortles will need to prevent himself from turning the back over because the Pats will take advantage of those opportunities. Leonard Fournette also must run hard and well to set up the play-action game, which is how Blake Bortles will play better. If they can do these things well, the Jags will have a strong chance of defeating the Pats on Sunday.
Eagles 17, VIkings 16; 6:40pm FOX
This game is almost guaranteed to be a low-scoring affair given how good the defenses are. The Eagles defense has the upper hand in this game because they are playing in front of their home crown and because they are more capable of creating turnovers than the Vikings defense. Along with this, this defensive line was the best in generating pressure and Case Keenum was hit more than 10 times against the Saints. Oh, and also they are the best unit against the run and will quickly take Latavius Murray out of the game to force Keenum into throwing the ball a lot. As for the offense, they’ll have to run the ball to control the clock to keep the Vikings offense off the field and allow Nick Foles to throw a lot of RPOs. Nick Foles will also need to play a turnover-free game as he did last week against the Falcons. He also will not be checking the ball down to the running backs as the Vikes will be sure to pounce on those passes. This will be a very close game to the end and could go either way.
As for the Vikes, they have a monster defense of their own and is a very organized unit that does not allow very many big plays. Like the Eagles, this unit will have to stop the run to force Nick Foles into throwing the ball more than he would like to. Also, they have to make life very difficult for Foles by pressuring him early and often and take away the check down passes to force him into making tight-window throws. As for the offense, they’ll have to run the ball effectively to neutralize the pass rush and allow Case Keenum to have time in the pocket. He’ll also need to throw quick passes to eliminate the pass rush and take his deep shots down the field to test the secondary. The Vikings, like the Eagles, have a chance to prove they are capable of winning close games and this game is no exception.