Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, January 18, 2018 at 2:15 PM
SUNDAY'S NFL CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES INCH A BIT CLOSER AND WE CLUE YOU IN ON THE KEY STATS ...
COLLEGE ROUNDBALL REPORT - A PAIR OF POTENTIAL "MARCH MADNESS" SLEEPERS
We know ... can we just get to Sunday's AFC and NFC Championship Games already! Note that we'll be posting our AFC/NFC Championship Game previews the next couple of days here at Jim Sez - so don't miss out as we'll be including more Spread Stats - but for now let's examine what have been some key stats for all four teams still alive in the chase for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
JACKSONVILLE (12-6) at NEW ENGLAND (14-3) - 3:05 p.m. ET, CBS
The visiting J'ville Jaguars won a wild card playoff game versus Buffalo by allowing just 3 points, then copped a divisional playoff game in Pittsburgh while allowing 42 points ... guess you know what kind of game the Jags would prefer here in Foxboro.
Note that through the two post-season games, the Jaguars have collected four sacks, three interceptions and one fumble recovery and if Doug Marrone's squad wants to hang in there against QB Tom Brady and Company come Sunday afternoon, then this steely defense likely needs a handful (or more) plays that result in said sacks/INTs/fumble recoveries ... or else! Hey, did you realize that Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles (26-of-49 passing for 301 yards in these playoffs) has not thrown a single pick this post-season?
On the flip side, New England - which has covered its last four consecutive games and 10 of its last 11 dating back to Oct. 22nd - scored 35 points in last Saturday night's 21-point win against Tennessee and take note that the Patriots have scored 30-or-more points in eight different games this season and Bill Belichick's crew is 6-2 ATS (against the spread) in those affairs. One key spread stat from last week's win/cover against the Titans: The Pats didn't commit a single turnover on 90 offensive plays and Brady and Co. averaged nearly 10 yards per pass completion (337 yards on 35 completions).
Jim Hurley's Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will get you the winning Side & Totals plays on this Sunday's NFL Championship Games - that's Jacksonville at New England and Minnesota at Philadelphia -- when you check in with us on game-day morning. Get 'em right here online or 1-800-323-4453 and cash in big as we continue to bash the Las Vegas/offshore books with nothing but winners! Plus - of course -- there's College Basketball and NBA action each and every day/night as the hardcourt action is really heating up. So, keep rollin' in the profits here in 2018 with Jim Hurley Network winners!!!
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
MINNESOTA (14-3) at PHILADELPHIA (14-3) - 6:40 p.m. ET, Fox
The NFC's top two seeds are alive-and-well following last week's wild games: Consider that Philly's late-game, goal-line stand kept Atlanta from advancing in that 15-10 win by the Eagles in the divisional round while that much-ballyhooed 61-yard "Seven Heaven" touchdown fling from Minnesota QB Case Keenum to WR Stefon Diggs is what kept the Vikings' Super Bowl hopes alive.
But how about some key numbers?
The Vikings finished that thrilling 29-24 non-cover win against 5.5-point pup New Orleans with three pass-catchers (including Diggs) hauling in 17 balls worth 239 yards and if Diggs/WR Adam Thielen/TE Kyle Rudolph is allowed to "go off" for anywhere near 200 yards receiving than the Philly defense will be in a heap of trouble.
As far as these now-famous home underdog Eagles, they actually lost the turnover battle 2-to-0 in last weekend's five-point win against the Falcons. Yes, for all the hype and hoopla surrounding the Philadelphia stop unit, it didn't force a single turnover on 56 offensive snaps for the Falcons ... hmm Finally, let's address the QB Nick Foles factor for the Birds: The journeyman slinger completed 23-of-30 passes for 246 yards and no picks in last week's playoff win - true, most of the throws were "low-risk" slants but if he's able to connect on these plays against Minnesota than it could open up some long ball tries.
THE COLLEGE ROUNDBALL REPORT
Here's a couple of teams to watch as potential "March Madness" sleepers ...
#21 TENNESSEE (12-4, 3-2 SEC) - The Volunteers entered last night's game at Mizzou on a three-game SEC winning streak with back-to-back triumphs against Kentucky/Vanderbilt/Texas A&M and no way has this Knoxville team looked like a team predicted to finish dead-last in the league at season's start. If F Grant Williams (team-leading 16.7 ppg) and crew continue to be second-half warriors, watch out.
BUFFALO (13-5, 5-0 Mid-American Conference) - Maybe we all tend to ignore the non-power conference teams but better beware of these Bulls who exited Tuesday night's 95-68 wipeout win against 15.5-point pup Northern Illinois having won six games in a row ... and note the RPI figures right now have 'em in the top 30. You may not hear much from the folks at ESPN or Fox regarding this Buffalo bunch but there are three players her averaging 15 ppg or more and you get into a run-run game with this MAC crew at your own risk.
NOTE: Catch our AFC Championship Game Preview in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez.