AFC CHAMPIONSHIP – JAGUARS @ PATRIOTS
I’m willing to bet that most people are taking the Patriots in the game. It’s a safe bet to make because they’re the Patriots. It’s easy to see the name of the two teams and pick the reigning Super Bowl champions over a team that prior to this year had won 11 games over the past three seasons. Well it’s not as simple as that anymore. The Jaguars are for real now.
Jacksonville has just about everything you’d want on your football team, except for an elite quarterback. I don’t care what anyone says, Blake Bortles is not elite. His play has been the same, while the defense has become elite. During the regular season, the Jaguars defense ranked 2nd in points allowed, 2nd in sacks, 2nd in INT’s, and 4th in fumble recoveries. Those are some elite numbers. This group knows how to bother a quarterback and force them into mistakes. If the Jaguars want to win this game, they must do that to Tom Brady.
I recently read an article by a fellow sports blogger, Sean Anchondo, stating that the Jaguars will beat the Patriots because of their defensive line. This Jaguars defense reminded him of the Giants defense that harassed Brady in those Super Bowls. This got me thinking. I took a look at the numbers for Brady this season in games they either lost or came close to losing.
Tom Brady had 8 games with a rating of less than 100 this season. In 6 of those games, the Patriots were within range of a loss. The Patriots only lost 2 of those games, but they came close to several more losses. Looking back on the two games against the Giants in those Super Bowls, Tom Brady had a combined rating of 86.4. 82.5 was his rating in the first meeting and 91.1 was his rating in the second. Get after Brady with a great defense, specifically a defensive line, and your team has a chance to win. I’m picking the underdogs to win this game and upset the reigning Super Bowl champions.
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP – VIKINGS @ EAGLES
This game has a battle between two quarterbacks who nobody thought would be in this position. Case Keenum and Nick Foles both have an opportunity to take their team to a Super Bowl, but really this game isn’t about the quarterbacks. To me this game is more about which defense makes more plays. Both defensive units have been playing great football.
The Vikings allowed the least amount of points on average during the regular season (15.8). They played great against the Saints in the first half last week, but faltered in the second half and ended up being bailed out by a miracle. That was against an offense led by Drew Brees, who had the second highest quarterback rating during the regular season. He also had Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara in the backfield. Any defense can have a tough time with that.
Now they play a quarterback who has been inconsistent since being inserted into the starting lineup. He has a rating of 79.5 this season, having his ups and downs. Last week against Atlanta, Foles had a rating of 100.1, but he did get some pretty lucky completions. Going 13-3 on the season, the Vikings were also 8-1 against quarterbacks who had a rating of 92.2 or less.
Nick Foles has been conservative with a little bit of luck. He’ll need to be much more than that against the best defense in the NFL. Keenum has been consistent all year long. With these two defenses playing well, I’m going to take consistency over inconsistency.