NFL fans were treated to one of the most exciting weekends of football in history on the weekend, as three of the divisional round games all had mega thrilling finishes. We’ll be hoping for a similar experience this weekend, but a different result in our betting tips, after we went just 1-3 in the divisional round. See our Conference Championships tips below.
Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots (Monday 7.05am AEDT)
The Patriots spoiled the party in the divisional round, providing the only contest that wasn’t a thrilling affair as they defeated the Tennessee Titans by 21 points at home. They’ll play in yet another Conference Championship game at Gillette Stadium Monday, the 7th in a row they have competed in as they face the Jaguars from 7.05am. The Jags captured a thrilling win over the Steelers in the divisional round as the two teams combined for 87 points.
Nothing in recent history points to a Jags win here. The Pats are a dominant against AFC South teams in the playoffs with a 10-1 record since the Brady/Belichick era began. The Jags are also one of just four teams that has never competed in a Super Bowl and got absolutely thumped by the Pats to the tune of 34 points the last time they played.
All the talk has been over how good the Jacksonville defence has been this year, with the nicknamed ‘Sacksonville’ being coined throughout the season due to their ridiculous pass rush. The fact is they still let Pittsburgh run up and down the field on them in the divisional round. Big Ben and co. put up 42 points on the ‘best defence in the league’ on the weekend, and Tom Brady has a similar arsenal at his disposal. He might not have Ben Brown of Le’Veon Bell to call upon but Rob Gronkowski may just be the best tight end of all time, not to mention a litany of pass catching backs and fearless slot recievers.
There’s also the fact that the Pats just don’t lose at Gillette Stadium. They were 7-1 at home this season and are 5-1 in conference championship games. The Pats start as heavy favourites for the game and were 11-5 against the spread in the regular season this year. We like them to cover the 9 point line at home.
Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles (10.40am AEDT)
The Vikings were able to overcome the Saints in the divisional round after the last play of the game was a 61-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs to give the Vikings the lead. The Eagles had their own thrilling win in a low scoring game against the Falcons on Sunday. Leading 15-10 in the final quarter, the Eagles defence stood up has it has all year to force a crucial stop on their own goal line to ice the game.
It’ll be the best two defences in the NFC doing battle here, as both the Eagles and Vikings are amongst the top teams in the league in both points allowed, yards allowed and in Minnesota’s case in particular, passing yards allowed. That should bode well for them against the inexperienced Nick Foles here, who has struggled to get going at times since taking over from the injured Carson Wentz.
This game could be won or lost by the running backs on either side, as both teams should look to utilise their strong rushing games with Jay Ajayi for the Eagles and Latavius Murray for the Vikings, both of whom received over 15 carries in the divisional playoff round.
The Vikings start as three point favourites as both teams do battle with makeshift quarterbacks after their starters were injured during the regular season. We think Keenum has had more time to fit into his role and has been slightly more impressive. They might be away from home but we think the Vikings have what it takes here.
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