New England hosts Sacksonville in the first game at 2:05 PM CT tomorrow and the Vikings play at Philadelphia in the nightcap at 5:40 PM CT with the winners squaring off in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis 2 weeks from tomorrow, Feb. 4th, at 5:30 PM CT on NBC.
Last Week: 3-1
Won Philly over Atlanta, New England over Tennessee, Minnesota over New Ahlins, thanks to Case Keenum and Stefon Diggs, and took an L with Pittsburgh losing to Jacksonville. Blake Bortles, Leonard Fournette and the Jax offense were super good against the Steelers. T.J. Yeldon from Alabama had some huge plays in the passing game including a clutch 40 yard catch and run in a critical part of the game. Mike Tomlin made questionable decisions throughout the game. The Steelers coach was down 7 after a TD with over 2 minutes left and 2 timeouts, but instead of kicking deep and giving his defense a chance to stop the Jags, he decided to onside kick it. Jacksonville recovered and went on to kick a field goal to go up 45-35 and won 45-42 as the Steelers scored a TD with 1 second left in the game. That was a major blunder on Tomlin's part. Why not give your defense a chance to stop'em, and get the ball back to your offense with over a minute left to try and score the tying TD. His offensive coordinator, Todd Haley, also made a couple of major mistakes on fourth and one, by instead of quarterback sneaking 6'5", 240 pound Ben Roethlisberger, he first did a toss sweep to Le'Veon Bell, and then had Ben throw a 15 yard pass over the middle. Both plays were stopped. It was really 4th and a foot on both plays. Of course, Tomlin set his team up for failure by predicting in week 13, that he was getting his team ready to play the Patriots twice beginning in week 15 at home vs the Pats. Tomlin predicted then that his team would play New England in the AFC Championship also. His attitude permeated to some of his players as Bell tweeted out last Saturday Night that his team loved rematches and that they would play 2 in the next 2 weeks. They lost to Jacksonville 30-9 in the regular season and to New England in week 15, 27-24. Well, they lost again to Jacksonville, 45-42, and Tomlin and Bell looked pretty foolish with their overconfidence.
So here's a look at tomorrow's classics.
Jacksonville Jaguars (12-6) vs. New England Patriots (14-3, 6-2 home)
Gillette Stadium. Foxborough, MA. 66, 829
2:05 PM CT
Jim, Tony, Trace, Jay Feely
Studio: James Brown, Coach Cowher, Nate Burleson, Boomer, Phil
Whistles: Clete Blakeman, lead laundry, Replay: Carl Madsen
New England by 7 1/2
The buzz this week has been about Tom Brady's right hand. He received 4 stitches in it after a teammate hit Brady's hand with helmet strap in practice on Tuesday. It was obviously not intentional. Brady is listed as questionable but he'll play. It is his right hand, so that's somewhat of an issue. But the great Brady will show up and play well most likely. Sacksonville can really get to the quarterback and are good on defense though the Steelers torched them last week. I trust the great Brady, the unstoppable tight end Rob Gronkowski, and all their other threats in Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, a very good and underrated running back in Dion Lewis and a defense that finished fifth in the league in scoring defense, to get the job done tomorrow. Should be a competitive game, but the Patriots in Foxborough are close to unbeatable. Brady's hand is a concern, but I still like him to overcome that and get enough done, along with the defense shutting down Blake Bortles and Leonard Fournette, to allow the Pats to move on to Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII and play for their 6th world championship.
Patriots 24, Jags 14
Minnesota Vikings (14-3) vs Philadelphia Eagles (14-3, 8-1 home)
Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA. 69,176
5:40 PM CT
Joe, Troy, EA, Chris Myers
Studio: Curt Menefee, Terry, Howie, Michael, Jimmy. Wish Jerry "Alabama Getaway" Jones would join'em. That would be some good humor.
Yella: Ed Hochuli, Replay: Tom Sifferman
Vikings by 3
The Eagles are 6-2 against the Vikings since 2001 and 2-0 in the postseason. The Nick Foles-Case Keenum matchup may not be considered a stellar quarterback duel, but these guys are pretty good and will be critical in their teams' respective success . Foles had a solid game last week completing 22-of-30 passes for 246 yards, 0 TDs but 0 ints also. He did a really solid job. His passer rating was an excellent 100.1. Keenum, who has had an excellent regular season, completed 25-of-40 passes for 318 yards 1 TD, the gigantic one to Stefon Diggs on the last play of the game to win it for the Vikings, 29-24, and he tossed one interception that could have been costly except for his late game heroics. He's been outstanding this season. The Linc will be rockin tomorrow and that will really help the home team. But the weather is pretty balmy for this time of year in Philly at 45 degrees with minimal wind at kickoff. I've had a tough time with this one. Minnesota is the number 1 team in the league in total defense and scoring defense, but the Eagles are right behind at 4th in total defense and 4th in scoring defense. The Eagles also have the top rushing defense in the league. The Vikings are second. So this is coming down to a low scoring, one possession game that could actually come down to the last drive by either squad. Both teams have excellent receivers on the perimeter with the Vikings featuring Diggs, Adam Thielen and tight end Kyle Rudolph along with a pretty excellent third perimeter receiver in Jarius Wright. The Eagles have the great Alshon Jeffery, tight end Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor. Alshon caught 9 TDs this season, Agholor had 8 and Ertz had 8. I like the Eagles edge on the Vikings and I really like the Eagles in the Linc. But I'll stick with the Vikings to make it back to Minneapolis and play a virtual home game in the Super Bowl.
Vikings 21, Eagles 17