The NFL season is coming to a close and with the Super Bowl on the line this weekend is sure to be an exciting one. If at the beginning of the season you asked 100 NFL fans who they thought would be in the conference championships I bet less than 10 would have said the Vikings, Eagles or Jaguars. The Patriots on the other hand, you would have probably had 75-80 of them (at least) thinking they would be playing this weekend. New England has played in more Super Bowls in the past decade then the other three teams have appearances in the conference championship games.
Both games have very different feels to them, the AFC game is your very traditional David vs Goliath with the Jags and the Patriots, while the NFC game you could argue that both teams kind of have that underdog feel to them. The Eagles on the first hand are the literal underdogs...at home...as the 1 seed. Now that is somewhat due to the fact that they lost their MVP contender QB Carson Wentz but part of that is because of how well Minnesota has played down the stretch. The Vikings sort of have the underdog feel because they are really down to their 3rd string QB (if you count Teddy Bridgewater) and they have played with a chip on their shoulder all year especially in last weeks game against New Orleans.
This weekend will tell us a lot about each of these teams. New England is trying to win their 3rd Super Bowl in 4 years and prove that Tom Brady can be dominant even at his age. The Jaguars are trying to make one of the biggest turn arounds in NFL history. I'm not sure what the fewest wins a Super Bowl team had the year before they won the Super Bowl but I would imagine the Jaguars are up there as one of the worst teams to make the Super Bowl the following year. The Vikings are looking to become the first team in Super Bowl history to host the big game if they can beat Philly this weekend. The Eagles on the other hand are trying to make the Super Bowl after being so dominant this year with Wentz. If they can make it without Wentz then that will prove a lot about how deep this team actually is. Without keeping you waiting any longer lets go ahead and look at these two games and break it down.
AFC Championship - Jacksonville at New England.
The match up that everyone will be looking for in this game will be the New England offense against the Jacksonville defense. Everyone knows what Tom Brady and that offense are capable of and they can go out any day and put up 40 points on anyone. The Jaguars defense on the other hand is one of the best in the league especially in terms of sacking the quarterback and forcing turn overs as we saw in their game against the Steelers. Both units however have their weaknesses. While Tom Brady is Tom Brady, the rest of the Patriots offense is not quite as good as it has been in years past and Tom can only do so much. The Jaguars, while really solid they are aggressive and while that usually works for them we saw against Pittsburgh that they can give up the big play if they aren't careful. Against the Steelers they gave up two long 4th down touchdowns which if that happens against the Patriots they will have 0 chance of winning.
The other side of the ball will be interesting. The Patriots defense has been very vulnerable at times and the Jaguars offense while led by Blake Bortles (who is undefeated in the playoffs in his career) have had some games where they struggle to move the ball. If Jacksonville wants to win this game they will need the offense they had last week against Pittsburgh because you won't be able to keep Tom Brady and the Patriots at 3 points like they did against Buffalo.
This game could go either way, and I know people are giving Jacksonville little chance of winning let along dominating this game but if they can force the rest of the Patriots offense not named Tom Brady make plays and get off to an early lead by running the ball as they did last week Jacksonville could come out and dominate this game and win by 15 or 20. Do I think that will happen? No, but it could and don't be surprised if the Jags are up at halftime. Ultimately I think Tom Brady will be too much of Tom Brady and the Patriots defense will be good enough. It was a fun run for the Jags and they are definitely a team to look for in the coming years but I think New England pulls one out 41-31 at home.
NFC Championship - Minnesota at Philadelphia.
It is very rare that you see a 13 win #1 seed be underdogs in both of their playoff games but that is what has happened and there is a good chance they will be underdogs in the Super Bowl if they win this game. These teams are both gritty and physical teams and a fan of old school football will love this game. Neither team has an offense that will go out and win the game on its own so this one will likely come down to the little things, special teams, turnovers and field position. At the end of the game look at who won those battles and I almost can guarantee that team wins the game.
Both teams have the ability to run the ball and I would imagine that on a cold Sunday in Philly that is what will happen. I think the Eagles really need to establish the run and be able to run it well because Nick Foles is not going to be able to do that against the Vikings defense, I mean future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees looked like a rookie QB for most of that game. The Eagles will have to run the ball, set up the short passing game and then take a few big shots down field and be successful on them. They won't have many opportunities for a big play so when they go for them they will need to execute.
The Vikings on the other hand will be able to move the ball through the air a little better than the Eagles in my opinion. The Vikings key to winning this one will be having success getting pressure on Foles and then staying balanced on offense. The Eagles defense is one of the best and just ask the Falcons, if you stay too predictable you won't be able to score on them very much. The Vikings may need a little more magic like they had in the finish against New Orleans but if either team is going to make a big play like that I think it will be Minnesota.
A lot of people are saying this game will be one that is very low scoring and a defensive struggle but I have a feeling there will be more scoring than people think. That may be because of a defensive touchdown or two but I think both offenses will have an edge and will have to show up. I ultimately like the Vikings in this one winning 26-23 but its really a game I could see going either way so it should be fun.