Jacksonville Jaguars (+8-1/2) at New England Patriots: I saw a stat that the Pats are 14-0 in playoff games when they didn't play their opponent in the regular season, but 12-9 in "rematch games" (the Patriots and Jaguars did not meet in 2017). In addition, New England quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick are 7-0 lifetime vs. the Jags (including two postseason wins).
Jacksonville is a nice story and looks like a force to be reckoned with in the immediate future given their strong defense and some solid play makers on offense. But this season? Blake Bortles is still their QB. While he looked good in last week's divisional round upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers, going into Foxborough, MA to take on a Pats club that's in their 7th consecutive AFC title game (and 12th in 17 seasons) is not a recipe for success. If the Jaguars can somehow keep it close late, they have a shot given terrific rookie RB Leonard Fournette will be taking on a Pats run defense which allowed 4.7 yards per rush (only the L.A. Chargers, at 4.9, were worse in 2017).
As always, I just can't bet against Brady-Belichick in an AFC title game in Foxborough.
New England 27 Jacksonville 17
Minnesota Vikings (-3) at Philadelphia Eagles: This a matchup of two of the top four defenses (in terms of total yards allowed) in the NFL during the regular season.
Despite dominating the New Orleans Saints for the first 2-1/2 quarters in last week's divisional round win, the Vikings' D showed some cracks over the final quarter-and-a-half. However, was that more an indictment of Minnesota's defense or the cool customer that is Saints' Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees? I'm more inclined to think the latter, which is why I believe Eagles quarterback Nick Foles will be in for a long day.
From the Eagles' perspective, they held a highly talented Atlanta Falcons offense to 10 points (zero in the second half) and less than 300 total yards in last week's win. Plus, Philly and their fans are a bit salty over having been a underdog last week and this week despite both postseason games being at home.
I suppose I could break down some more numbers and really get into the weeds, but why? I'm a hardcore (and long-suffering) Vikings fan, so I am unapologetic in saying that this pick is more with my heart than my head.
My beloved Vikes will end a 40-year drought by earning a berth in the Super Bowl!!
Minnesota 17 Philadelphia 13
2017 Postseason Record:
Against the Spread: 4-3-1
Straight Up: 5-3