I wish I could say I was excited for these two Conference Championship games but I’m really not. Where are the storylines? None of these teams make for all that appealing of a Super Bowl to me. See my rankings of the potential matchups below (from most interesting to least interesting) and tell me you don’t agree…
1. New England vs. Minnesota: Vikings on their home field with a strong defense against the best QB (Tom Brady) of all-time. I would not hesitate to pick the Vikings straight up.
2. New England vs. Philadelphia: The two best teams during the regular season (prior to Eagles QB Carson Wentz’s season-ending ACL tear) face off in what would be a rematch of Super Bowl XXIX.
3. Jacksonville vs. Philadelphia: Because the winner of this game would have no geographical advantage. Likely a hard-to-watch defensive struggle.
4. Jacksonville vs. Minnesota: If the Jaguars knock of giants Pittsburgh and New England on their home fields, they can’t be ruled out here. But the Vikings would have a decided advantage playing on their home field.
Last Week: 1-3 Straight Up (SU), 2-2 Against the Spread (ATS)
Playoffs: 3-5 SU, 3-5 ATS
Regular Season: 171-85 SU (66.8%), 141-114-1 ATS (55.3%)
Conference Championship Games
NEW ENGLAND 27, Jacksonville 10 (ATS: Patriots -7.5)
I’m not buying this Tom Brady hand injury thing from practice. If he’s not close to 100% by Sunday, I’d be borderline shocked. Then again, even if his hand IS broken, he’s still playing against the Jags. I just don’t see how, by any possible means, that the Jaguars win this game. What they did in Pittsburgh was against a defense minus its best player (Ryan Shazier) due to injury. The Patriots will dink and dunk down the field, nibbling at Jacksonville’s stingy defense. Brady won’t hold the ball long enough for the Jags to create enough pressure.
For the Jaguars to have any chance whatsoever, Blake Bortles will have to morph into Joe Flacco of 2012-13 or vintage Peyton Manning. And Leonard Fournette has to run like he’s on fire (literally). Sorry to my friend BoomCrush, who stands to win a six-figure payout (from a preseason bet) if JAX wins, that’s not happening. What Florida’s northern-most NFL team has done this season is borderline miraculous…but the run ends here. Patriots easy and on to yet ANOTHER Super Bowl.
PHILADELPHIA 23, Minnesota 17 (ATS: Eagles +3)
When everything points to a low-scoring game, go in the opposite direction. So regardless of who wins, I’m on the Over 38 total points (as you’ll see in Best Bets below). There’s just something about Philly at home that I really like. While most observers believe that the Eagles will run the ball and control the clock, I expect Nick Foles to be throwing it all over the place on a wounded Vikings secondary, as Drew Brees did last Sunday. OK – maybe I’m still bitter that the ‘Miracle in Minneapolis’ ruined my Saints pick straight up and sadly against the spread…but that has nothing to do with me picking Philly. I haven’t been on the Vikings’ bandwagon all season and I still am not believing they’re for real. They blew a HUGE 17-0 halftime lead last week and looked dead as a doornail at the end before the final ridiculous play.
Oh yeah – call me crazy – but considering a team has never played in their home stadium for a Super Bowl, I’m betting on the trend continuing. Fly Eagles Fly!
NFL Best Bets
Last Week: 3-2
Regular Season: 46-37-2
Patriots -7 vs. Jaguars
Patriots / Jaguars Under 46 Total Points
Eagles +3 vs. Vikings
Eagles / Vikings Over 38 Total Points