Conference Championship Preview

After whiffing to the tune of 1-3 last week, bringing our overall record to an even 4-4 on playoff picks, we're back to redeem ourselves with our AFC and NFC championship predictions. 

New England Patriots vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

The good news for Jacksonville: Their defense is going to play better than it did last game, and they still won last game. The Patriots’ run defense is burnable, and Leonard Fournette is a flamethrower. Blake Bortles is due for one of those games that shuts up his haters and the Pats secondary might let him have one.

The bad news for Jacksonville: Blake Bortles’ best game is still only about half as good as Tom Brady’s best game. They’re a warm weather team playing on the road in an extremely cold weather city. When Brady is really feeling it, there’s no such thing as a “good enough” defense.

The good news for New England: They have Tom Brady, and the other team has Blake Bortles. Jacksonville’s vaunted defense is burnable with enough talent, and the Pats are full up on talent. Gronk is healthy.

The bad news for New England: Brady can’t take too many of the kind of hits Jacksonville likes to dish out. Bortles is due for one of his “oh, this is why he’s their starter” games. Leonard Fournette might actually be Teen Wolf.

Final Verdict: I so badly want to pick Jacksonville—especially after wussing out on them last week—and I think they have a decent enough shot that I wouldn’t put any of my own money down on New England… but it’s Brady, Belichick, and Gronk, and I just don’t see them going down to Bortles.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles

The good news for Philadelphia: Their front seven should be able to tear up Minny’s offensive line. Their crowd is one of the best crowds in sports, and absolutely thrives on being told they’re the underdog. If anyone has the horses to beat Minny’s run defense, it’s Philly’s combo of Ajayi, Blount, and Clement.

The bad news for Philadelphia: Nick Foles is going to have a really long day against that Vikings secondary. Despite an iffy offensive line, Case Keenum is something of a sack-dodging savant. Diggs and Thielen have proven they can do damage even against elite coverage.

The good news for Minnesota: They’re favored for a reason. Given Philly’s shaky offensive identity since Wentz went down, the Vikings can probably afford to sell out against the run. They’re coming off a real-life sports movie miracle.

The bad news for Minnesota: Good feeling aside, they ultimately beat the Saints because a young defender made a rookie mistake; that’s unlikely to happen against Philly’s savvy defense. That Philly crowd might be enough to rattle Keenum, who’s never really played in this kind of environment before. Philly probably only needs 14-20 points from their offense to win, and their running backs are capable of getting that more or less by themselves.

Final Verdict: Minnesota is the better team on paper, but the games aren’t played on paper. I think Philly’s crowd is the difference in this one.

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