NFL Conference Championship preview
And then there were four. This has been one of the most exciting postseasons in recent years, and this week’s matchups look to keep the entertainment rolling with the conference Championships set to kickoff.
AFC Championship: Jacksonville at New England, Sunday, Jan. 21, 3:05ET CBS
"I ain't got too much to say, but make sure you all bring that same energy out next week and the week after,” Jalen Ramsey said in front of Jacksonville fans after the Jaguars win over the Steelers. ”We are going to the Super Bowl, and we're gonna win that bitch. We're gonna win that bitch."
The Jaguars have every right to be confident after putting on two strong performances this playoff season, but the last time they beat the Patriots was in the 1998 playoffs…and that is the only time. The Jags are 1-10 all time against the Pats, 0-7 in New England, and 0-6 in the Brady/Belichick era. They are underdogs to say the least, but the Jaguars aren’t looking to back down against the reigning Super Bowl champs. A win in New England solidifies an amazing turnaround season, from nine straight losing seasons to the Super Bowl.
The Patriots are used to big-game situations. However the Jaguars are not, and the bright lights and cooler temperatures could factor into their performance.
The Patriots will need to prepare for a physical game as the Jaguars ranked number one in the regular season in rushing yards, averaging 141.4 yards per game. Expect the Jags to rely heavily on rookie running back Leonard Fournette, who torched the Steelers last week with 109 yards and 3 touchdowns.
As well as the Jaguars have been playing, it’s tough to pick against the Patriots in the playoffs. Brady is the most successful quarterback in postseason history, taking ownership of just about every statistical category a quarterback can have in the postseason. The most passing yards, touchdowns, and wins in NFL postseason history all belong to Brady, the G.O.A.T.
Jalen Ramsey and the Jaguars will have their hands full this weekend, but expect this to be a hard fought gritty matchup that could very well come down to the end of the game.
Prediction: Patriots 30 Jaguars 24
NFC Championship: Minnesota at Philadelphia, Sunday, Jan. 21, 6:40 ET FOX
Both teams barely slipped their way into this conference championship game, but have proven to be two of the NFL’s toughest teams this season. This is the Jeff Fisher Bowl(HOW did Jeff Fischer not win with either of these quarterbacks???) One of these teams will advance to the Super Bowl with their backup quarterback taking the lead.
The one big difference between the quarterbacks is Case Keenum has had all season to work out his kinks and receive plenty of game time reps, while Nick Foles was thrust into the starting role at the very end of the season. Keenum went undrafted after college but has managed to have the best season of his career.
Despite losing MVP contender Carson Wentz to a season-ending ACL injury, the Eagles have advanced to their first conference championship since 2008. Quarterback Nick Foles appeared a bit shaky at times during last week’s win over the Falcons but managed to go 23 for 30 with no interceptions. He can manage the game, but just managing the game may not be enough this week going up against a stout Vikings defense.
The Vikings have one of the toughest defenses in the league and will need to play physical all game to stop Eagles running backs Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount, who are punishing runners and have the ability to wear a defense down and move the chains. A key factor in this game could be the Vikings forcing Nick Foles to use his check downs as these two running backs have only accounted for 18 catches combined all season. This is where rookie running back Corey Clement, who has been a versatile addition to the team, could come into play. Clement has caught 10 passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns this season out of the backfield and was a factor last week with 5 receptions.
This game could be decided between the Vikings receivers and the Eagles secondary. Eagles corners Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills played well against the Falcons but will have their hands full once again this week matching up with wideouts Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Thielen has been the go-to-guy all season for the Eagles but Diggs provides a tough matchup for any corner and has big play ability as seen last week when he scored the walk off touchdown to win the game.
Don’t expect this game to be high scoring game and don't expect it to be a blowout either. This will be an old school, grind it out defensive battle.
Prediction: Vikings 20, Eagles 17