After some insane finishes and miraculous plays this past weekend, the NFL playoff field has narrowed to four teams: New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings have leapt into the final round of the playoffs. If men play in postseason football, then it is the legends that win proceed to the big dance, the Super Bowl. Here is your breakdown of the upcoming games in the waning games of the 2017 season.
NFC Championship – Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles defense squared up against a team only one year removed from scoring a NFL record-setting 540 points in the regular season in the Divisional Round. They did not flinch, did not let up and barely let them score. Shutting them down to the very end, clawing out a 15-10 victory. The Vikings also found plenty of success from their defense, however, it was the offense with the miracle on turf. With 10 seconds left in the game, a 61-yard walk-off touchdown bomb from Stefon Diggs helped the Vikings slip past New Orleans in a 29-24 win.
The two defenses that have been most consistently great all season long are now facing each other in Philly for a trip to the Super Bowl. Minnesota ranks 1st in points allowed per game (15.8) and yards (275.9). The Eagles are right there at 4th in both points (18.4) and yards (306.4) per game. The biggest problem here too is the formula to beat these teams is very straight forward: the Vikings need to sell out against the running game and put the game on backup quarterback Nick Foles while the Eagles need to produce the pressure that rendered the other backup, Case Keenum, largely ineffective for the second half of Sunday.
Even more intriguing is the players that both defenses boast to play right into theses game plans. Minnesota’s cornerback duo of Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes are exactly who Foles does not want to face in man to man coverage when his running backs have been stymied. On the flip side, Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox will keep Keenum up at night with how disruptive he has played all season long. This has helped the other Eagles pass rusher, Brandon Graham, get to 9.5 sacks in the regular season. This game is a pick’em at best, with big special teams plays and turnovers the biggest factor in the game. This game will really go to the team that shoots themselves in the foot the least.
The pick- Vikings win 13-10
AFC Championship – Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots
The Patriots squashed a Tennessee team that had no answers for most of their offense. If you thought they were going to win, you probably also thought the Tim Tebow led Denver Broncos also stood a chance. The Jaguars put up a scoring clinic on Pittsburgh, jumping out to a 28-7 lead and winning the 45-42 shootout.
While Jacksonville was impressive, the late game sting for Pittsburgh was running back Le’Veon Bell in the passing game. This is where a back like James White has excelled in playoff games before, and can do it once again. While the Cinderella Jaguars have a lot of momentum, the matchup puts all-time great Tom Brady up against Blake Bortles in an unlikely quarterback matchup for the underdog to find a victory. The Patriots 40-year-old quarterback looked exceptional in the tundra, despite his age. The highest level of quarterback play is now paired with the solid defense that turned the motley squad from a laughing stock into an efficient buzz saw. They are now up against unlikely contenders in a game that pits the upper echelon of NFL royalty in the five-time Super Bowl Champion quarterback vs. the young and upstart Jaguars.
The pick – Patriots win 45-30