There is no doubt that the final NFL Sunday is indeed Super but NFL Conference Championship Sunday gives football fans two marquee games all in one afternoon. ATN friend, Joe Fortenbaugh provides this week’s preview.
Whether you believe in this sort of thing or not, the fact remains that home teams are a highly lucrative 8-1-1 against the spread over the last five years in the NFL’s Conference Championship round. Additionally, favorites are 6-3-1 ATS during that same time span, while the Over is 6-4.
Will recent history prove to be an accurate predictor of future success? We shall find out on Sunday in the great football regions of Foxborough and Philadelphia.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Time: 3:05pm EST
Open: Patriots -9/46
Current: Patriots -9.5/46.5
Why the Jaguars will win: Eliminate that meaningless Week 17 road date with the Tennessee Titans and you’re left with a Jacksonville squad that has covered the number in four of its last six outings. Under new head coach Doug Marrone, this Jaguars defense took a gargantuan step forward in 2017, as evidenced by the fact that the franchise concluded the regular season campaign ranked tied for first in the NFL in opponent’s yards per play (4.7), second in sacks (55), second in total defense (286.1 yds/gm), second in scoring defense (16.8 pts/gm) and tied for fifth in turnover differential (+10).
Ultimately, however, Jacksonville’s fate on Sunday will be tied to quarterback Blake Bortles and his ability to avoid costly mistakes while moving the sticks on a consistent basis. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick excels at forcing opponents to play left-handed by taking away what their offense does best which, in this case, would be limiting running back Leonard Fournette. That means Bortles will need to produce the game of his life in order to shock the world while leading the Jaguars to the Super Bowl.
Hey, if Joe Flacco could do it in Foxborough back in January of 2013, Bortles can do it, right? After all, the Patriots are just 2-6 ATS over their last eight Conference Championship games.
Why the Patriots will win: New England is 5-0 against the spread over its last five home playoff games, 27-11-2 ATS over its last 40 games against teams with a winning record and 35-15-2 ATS over its last 52 games overall. Bottom line: This team covers point spreads at an alarming rate in virtually every situation imaginable.
Look for Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady to borrow a page from San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan’s playbook, which was utilized to deliver a 44-33 upset win over this stingy Jaguars defense back on December 24 in a game that saw former Brady backup Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers roll up an impressive 369 yards of offense against Jacksonville.
New England has won 12 of its last 13 games while covering the number in ten of its last 11 outings. Do you really want to be the guy who bets against this juggernaut?
Prediction: New England 31, Jacksonville 13
MINNESOTA VIKINGS at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Time: 6:40pm EST
Open: Vikings -3/40
Current: Vikings -3.5/38
Why the Vikings will win: No professional football team has covered more point spreads over the last four years than the Vikings, who are an astounding 42-18 ATS over their last 60 games overall. Not only that, but Minnesota is a healthy 5-1 ATS over its last six road dates as well.
And this, boys and girls, is the big problem for Philadelphia. Minnesota doesn’t just benefit from a ridiculous home-field advantage courtesy of an extraordinarily loud fan base, but these guys dominate on the road, too. In 2017 alone, the Vikings went 6-2 SU and 5-3 ATS while playing away from U.S. Bank Stadium while defeating the opposition by an average of 9.3 points per contest.
The biggest discrepancy in this matchup comes in the coaching department, as Vikings boss Mike Zimmer holds a significant advantage over Eagles coach Doug Pederson, who routinely botches timeout, replay and other various game management situations late in ballgames. Should this matchup find itself within one score during the final ten minutes of action, you’d be hard pressed to find an individual that would choose Pederson over Zimmer when it comes to leading his team.
Two things travel very well in the National Football League: Offensive lines and defenses. The good news for Vikings fans is that their team possesses both.
Why the Eagles will win: The NFC’s top-seeded franchise is personally offended by the notion of Vegas bookmakers installing them as a home underdog for the second playoff game in a row. Perhaps this rallying cry will be enough to overcome the loss of quarterback and MVP candidate Carson Wentz, who was lost to a significant knee injury in a 43-35 win over the Los Angeles Rams back on December 10.
Philadelphia boasts both a top-five scoring and total defense and will have the benefit of elements on its side, as the Vikings played in just one cold-weather matchup all season (at Green Bay on December 23). This could give the Eagles a first-half advantage as Minnesota quarterback Case Keenum and the Vikings get used to the wind and bitter chill courtesy of a South Philadelphia Sunday in mid-January.
Additionally, the Eagles are 6-2 ATS over their last eight home games, 11-4 ATS over their last 15 matchups with NFC competition and 10-4 ATS over their last 14 games overall.
Prediction: Minnesota 20, Philadelphia 14