The Spectator

NFL Playoff Predictions: Conference Championship

FOXBORO%2C+MA+-+SEPTEMBER+27%3A++Blake+Bortles+%235+of+the+Jacksonville+Jaguars+carries+the+ball+during+the+first+half+against+the+New+England+Patriots+at+Gillette+Stadium+on+September+27%2C+2015+in+Foxboro%2C+Massachusetts.++%28Photo+by+Maddie+Meyer%2FGetty+Images%29
FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars carries the ball during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 27, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 27: Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars carries the ball during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 27, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 27: Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars carries the ball during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 27, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Alex Jackson, Staff Writer

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Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6) @ New England Patriots (13-3) — Sunday 2:05 PM

All I can say is that the Jags will win. I’m going up front right now to prepare you for this upset. Blake Bortles (Jaguars) has proven himself throughout the playoffs and has earned my trust, while Tom Brady (Patriots) has been playing well, but nowhere near his best and he’s coming into this game with a hand injury that is leaving his status up in the air. I do think that Brady will play through the injury, but even if he does, we’ll have to keep a close eye on him because Jacksonville’s pass rush is so dominant and I expect Brady to take a lot of hits and sacks. No one would have ever thought we’d be comparing Tom Brady and Blake Bortles, but with rookie running back Leonard Fournette, the airways have opened up Bortles, even without his best receiver: Allen Robinson. We saw the Jags get burned on multiple deep touchdowns last week, which does leave room for Brady to expose them. I would like to believe that the young secondary of the Jags learned from their mistakes last week, making them only stronger and more dominant than they were before. Both teams have done a good job of balancing their passing and rushing games and have shown their ability to put up a lot of points when necessary, so the winner of this game will be decided on the defensive side of the ball, in which I have to give the upper hand to the Jaguars. Final score: Jaguars 27 – Patriots 22. My hot takes: Leonard Fournette scores at least twice (again) and Tom Brady (assuming he plays) throws two interceptions.

 

Minnesota Vikings (13-3) @ Philadelphia Eagles (13-3) — Sunday 5:40 PM

This is definitely not the matchup anyone would have predicted before this season started, but now we have two proven teams with two unlikely quarterbacks facing off in the NFC Conference Championship. Nick Foles (Eagles) and Case Keenum (Vikings) were on the same St. Louis Rams team back in 2015 and have played most this season as backups, which makes this game even more improbable. With that said, I hardly think quarterback play is going to take its normal effect in this game. What we have here is a matchup of two stellar defenses that have little room for improvement and should keep this game to minimal scoring. What I think gives Minnesota the edge is the momentum; they are coming off a huge last-second walk-off touchdown against a very good Saints team and show no signs of stopping. The only issue with the Vikings is that they are 0-5 when playing in Conference Championship Games since their last Super Bowl appearance in 1977 (according to Sports Center https://www.instagram.com/p/BeF9IfUlWsW/?hl=en&taken-by=sportscenter)–  a stat that might seem to have this game already made, but should not deter any believers. Case Keenum has been too good for too long since stepping in for Sam Bradford to lose to Nick Foles, who has been consistent, but at a lower echelon than Keenum. In addition, Minnesota’s dual-threat running game of Murray and McKinnon were big factors in the Divisional round and should take the same effect this week. Final score: Vikings 20- Eagles 14. My hot takes: This game will end on a game-winning drive (just like last week for the Vikings).

Photo by Getty Images
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – DECEMBER 15: Center John Sullivan #65 of the Minnesota Vikings prepares to snap the ball to Matt Cassel #16 during a game against the Philadelphia Eagles on December 15, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

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