Last week was just another January Football game for the New England Patriots as they took care of business by smashing a lame Tennessee Titans team at home, winning 35-14. This week the Patriots play a way better football team, the Jack/Sacksonville Jaguars, who had a massive upset win on the road against the cocky Pittsburgh Steelers; marking their biggest win in over a decade.
One of the biggest mistakes the Steelers made was getting ahead of themselves. A couple of examples of some Steelers players getting ahead of themselves, is Ben Roethlisberger publicly stating that he wants to play the Jaguars in the playoffs, and Le’Veon Bell tweeting that he is looking forward to getting revenge against the Patriots in the AFC Conference game. Some Jackonsonville players came out and called them out and said “be careful what you wish for”, pointing out that the Steelers should probably focus on the game that is ahead of them, and follow the old cliché of taking it “one week at a time”.
Fast forward one week, and the Jaguars should listen to their own advice as the confident and flamboyant all-pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey “guarantees” that not only will they take care of the Patriots at Foxboro, he also assures the world that they are going to win the Super Bowl. When will the NFL world learn? One reason as to why the Patriots have created such a dynasty in the last 15 or so years is because they do not get distracted or preoccupied with such talk, instead they let their performance do the talking. If there is one opponent you cannot get ahead of yourself on, it’s the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick-led New England Patriots. Maybe you’ve heard of them? Haven’t the Jags heard that the Patriots are 74-13 SU in their last 87 home games? Haven’t the Jags heard that the Patriots are 32-11-3 ATS in their last 46 home games? Oh, and haven’t the Jags heard that the Patriots are 10-1 SU & ATS in their last 11 games? It’s probably not the greatest time (if there is ever a great time) to guarantee a Super Bowl win, now is it?
Patriots coach Bill Belichick often takes away their opponent’s best game plan; and in the Jaguars situation, that is their running game. The best way to stop a team from running the ball is to either stack the box, or get an early lead. Or… both. I will bet my bottom dollar that the Patriots will do anything to achieve both. Doing everything to stop the Jags’ running game will not only stop their best offensive game plan, it will also exploit their biggest weakness, Blake Bortles – the quarterback who has a QB rating of 66.8 when trailing in 2017.
In the last month, the Jags have travelled to San Francisco, Tennessee, and Pittsburgh, equating to 9,387 miles of travel when you consider the fact that they obviously have to travel back home from each trip. In that span, the Patriots have travelled exactly 0 miles. The Jaguars are heavily disadvantaged in this department as it would be hard to find a bigger disparity between two opponents in terms of distance travelled.
The Jaguars have one of (if not the) best cornerback duo in the league, with Jalen Ramsey and AJ bouye, who shut down cornerbacks on a week to week basis. The Patriots will be relying on dump offs and crossing routes with their Tight Ends (namely Rob Gronkowski) and their Running Backs (Dion Lewis, James White, and Rex Burkhead). Rob Gronkowski is the best Tight End in the league, and probably the best Tight End of this generation, so I expect him to score in this game.
Last week the Steelers were favoured by 7.5 points, which is the same number that the Partiots are giving this week. To me, that just does not make sense. One of the reasons why this number is not higher is because there has been news that Tom Brady is “questionable” for this AFC Championship game due to a cut on his hand. Do you really believe that Tom Brady is really going to miss a game, let alone the AFC Championship game due to a cut on his hand? Please… This number should be around 9.5 in my opinion, take advantage of it.
Vikings @ Eagles
The Pick: Either Team by Under 7 or Less @ $2 (Sportsbet)
If you predicted that Case Keenum and Nick Foles would both be starting in the 2018 NFC Championship game some time ago, I highly recommend that you go and buy a lotto ticket immediately! Cast your mind back only 12-24 months ago, and both of these players were a backup at the LA Rams at some point. Without discrediting either one of these Quarterbacks (especially Keenum as he had the second highest QBR in 2017), their respective teams are lead by their mean and NFL-leading defences. Minnesota and Philadelphia both have one of the best defences in the league, conceding 15.8 and 18.4 points per game respectively. The Vikings have conceded the least points in the league, whilst the Eagles have conceded the least points at home.
Who will win this game? I’m not exactly sure, but I would be surprised if either team convincingly beat their opponent and I reckon the bookmakers have this line correct at Vikings -3. The Vikings are undoubtedly the better team – on paper anyway, at least – but the home field advantage in a Championship game cannot be underestimated. If I had to stick my neck out, I would say that the Vikings win this game by exactly 3 points.
I am expecting a very low scoring game, making an 8+ point win unlikely for either team.