Four teams stand on the brink of reaching the Super Bowl and football fans are eagerly anticipating Sunday’s Conference Championship clashes. Two underdogs, the Eagles and the Jaguars, made it through the divisional round and will seek to cause further upsets this coming weekend. The Patriots fell short of covering the spread against Titans but still stormed into another Championship game, while the Vikings landed bang on the +5 spread as they beat the Saints.
Jacksonville +9 at New England
The Pats have been heavy favorites to coast through to the Super Bowl all season and delivered on that promise by going 13-3 and overwhelming the Titans with ease. New England remains the +100 favorite to win the Super Bowl in the futures betting, but first it has to get past a dogged and resolute Jacksonville. The Jags allowed the second fewest points in the league and fought tooth and nail to achieve every single one of their 10 wins. Its defense has been firing on all cylinders and deserves the accolades it has received. Jalen Ramsey exudes confidence and he can back it up with a superb string of performances, while AJ Bouye is another superb cornerback. Jacksonville is blessed with elite talent across its defense: Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church are brilliant safeties, the pass rush from Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue is ferocious and then there is linebacker Telvin Smith to contend with.
History is against the Jags, who are 0-7 in New England since the franchise was founded, and 0-7 against Tom Brady. The legendary QB will be under pressure throughout as he bids to handle the Jags’ intense front seven, but he has proven his supreme quality on too many occasions to write him off, and he is more than capable of putting a Jags’ defense that yielded 42 points against Pittsburgh to the sword. The Pats have the league’s best quarterback, its best coach, home field advantage and crucial post-season experience. Their defense allows a lot of yards, but still yields the fifth fewest points per game and will not be too bothered by the limited threat of Blake Bortles. The Jags’ defense is enough to give New England a headache, but the Pats should progress to the Super Bowl, although the Jags are likely to cover the spread. Patriots win 26-19.
Philadelphia +3 vs. Minnesota
The Eagles were looking the most likely team to knock New England off its perch this season, until Carson Wentz went down with an ACL. At that point, Philadelphia was promptly written off as a contender, expected to fade into insignificance. Instead the Eagles have played on their underdog status – Chris Long and Lane Johnson even took to wearing German Shepherd masks, inspiring fans to follow suit – and Philadelphia keeps on winning. Nick Foles is never going to match Wentz for ability, but he delivered a valiant performance as the Birds got the better of the Falcons in the Divisional Round. He is not going to lead Philadelphia to a load of points against a league-leading Minnesota defense, but fans will hope he simply does not have to.
The Eagles’ defense finished fourth in the NFL, allowing just 18.4 points per game, and absolutely swamped Matt Ryan when the Falcons visited the City of Brotherly Love last weekend. They sacked him four times, forced six punts and allowed just 281 yards of offense, and they will make life very difficult for Case Keenum and co on Sunday. The Vikings have a top-10 offense but needed a miracle play to edge past the Saints and their luck may run out against a well-organized Eagles unit that enjoys home field advantage. This should prove to be a tight game and unders on total points looks attractive. Bookmaker will have all odds on games, make sure to check them and you could do well backing a low-scoring affair on Sunday. Taking the Eagles and the points also appeals. Eagles to win 17-10.