The Cold Hard Truth: On Sports

2017 NFL Playoff Preview – Championship Weekend

2017 NFL Playoff Preview – Championship Weekend

Last weekend gave us a few good games, and now it all comes down to these two matchups to decide who will be at US Bank Stadium for Super Bowl LII.

AFC Championship Game

Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots

We have heard this term many times…”The New England Patriots are in the AFC Championship Game”. Belichick has led this team to seven consecutive conference championship games, and they are looking very good this year coming off that 35-14 win over the Tennessee Titans on Saturday. Tom Brady passed for three touchdowns and James White had a touchdown rushing and receiving to boost the offense while the Patriots defense combined for eight sacks on Marcus Mariota. The concern for New England coming into the playoffs was their defense, but they came out with a scheme to contain Mariota and limit the production of Derrick Henry. They did that very well as the Titans running game could not get going at all, leading to a fairly easy win for New England. Now they are one step closer to defending their Super Bowl title.

The Patriots will face a team that has not reached this point in a while. Jacksonville has been in the middle of what many have said is an improbable season, winning the AFC South and now hold two playoff wins under their belt after going to Heinz Field and scoring 45 points on the Pittsburgh Steelers to get to the AFC title game, which seems more improbable given that they scored only 10 points (at home!) against the Buffalo Bills. Blake Bortles did better in the game against the Steelers than the previous week against the Bills, as he consistently made the right play to keep them ahead and get the win to reach Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Leonard Fournette had a monster performance as he went for over 100 yards against the Steeler defense, and it will take another effort like that for the Jaguars to reach the Super Bowl.

NFC Championship Game

Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles

At the beginning of the season, not that many people expected the Eagles and the Vikings to be the best teams in their respective divisions. Now here we are coming up towards Championship Weekend and these two teams will go at it in Philly for a chance to make it to the Super Bowl. The Eagles host this game coming off a tough win over the Atlanta Falcons as they were able to hold firm near the goal line to stop last year’s NFC Champions from advancing. They didn’t score that many points, but they didn’t make many mistakes which led them to getting the win. Nick Foles had pressure on him to perform well and he did, even though he fumbled the ball twice. It will take another effort like that against a defense that swarms you from all angles like the Vikings do. They forced two sacks, one forced fumble and two interceptions against Drew Brees on Sunday, and the expectation is that they would like to feast on Foles. The Eagles may have to get the ball out of their quarterback’s hands and to the skill players quickly. However, the secondary is one of the best in the league.

Minnesota is coming off a high as they squeaked by the Saints with a game winning touchdown pass to Stephon Diggs, and now they want to keep that momentum going into Lincoln Financial Field. For the first half of their last game, their offense was running smooth as they scored 17 points while moving the ball on sustained drives. Case Keenum made good plays in that half, but then had some issues moving the ball until his pass to Diggs to end the game. Now with the team going into a hostile environment, it will take patience in the pocket for Keenum to make plays against an Eagle defense that may be as good as the Viking defense. They were able to hold the Falcons to ten points in their last game, and if they could do the same thing against the Vikings, it may be just enough to get through this championship game.

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