Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, January 20, 2018 at 1:00 PM
IT'S CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY!
OUR AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREVIEW - JAGUARS LOOK TO BE A GIANT-KILLER VERSUS THE PATS
Gotta go all the way back to the 2010 season to find the last time the New England Patriots were not part of the AFC Championship Game scene but keep in mind the Pats have not been any sort of lead-pipe cinch in these games. In fact, New England's split its six AFC Championship Game appearances since 2011 (Denver beat 'em twice in 2013 and '15, Baltimore beat 'em back in 2012) while Jacksonville is making its first showing in this title tilt since 1999.
In case you're wondering, the last 10 AFC Championship Game Betting Favorites are a composite 6-4 ATS (against the spread) with the Pats going a dead-even but vi-losing 3-3 spreadwise as championship game chalk.
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
JACKSONVILLE (12-6) at NEW ENGLAND (14-3) - 3:05 p.m. ET, CBS
Go ahead and doubt the "injury report" involving Patriots' QB Tom Brady (337 yards passing and 3 TDs in last week's 35-14 win/cover against 14-point underdog Tennessee last weekend) but the fact is Brady did bang up his throwing hand in a mid-week practice and you wonder if the New England slinger will change his throws here against the NFL's top-ranked defense - yes, one that's talking up a little trash these days.
The Jaguars might wish to quiet down - consider they did allow 42 points to Pittsburgh last weekend in that, truthfully, never-in-doubt win in divisional play - but gotta expect Jacksonville's star-studded secondary will stick like glue to TE Rob Gronkowski (6 catches for 81 yards versus the Titans) and we'd be shocked if Pats' slot receiver Danny Amendola went off for another 11-catch/112-yard performance as he did in the 35-14 win against Tennessee.
So, what to expect should Brady's hand and/or passing lanes are closed down a bit here? Well, RB Dion Lewis had 24 total touches (15 rushes/9 receptions) last weekend for 141 yards and it won't come as any surprise if Lewis gets 30-or-more touches here with some slip-screens and draw plays out of the shotgun designed to keep the hard-charging Jaguars' defense off balance.
Meanwhile, the QB Blake Bortles "haters" out there were kept silent last week as the Jacksonville signal-caller threw for 216 yards and no INTs in the 45-42 triumph over Pittsburgh - but make no mistake about it that rookie RB Leonard Fournette (25 carries for 109 yards and three ground scores) must hit the holes quickly here and put Bortles in more optimum third-and-three type down/distance situations. Fournette tweaked his ankle early last week but came back strong - are there any lasting after-effects to that injury here?
The Jags need a buck-and-quarter type rushing game from Fournette, a low-to-no INT game from Bortles and then some top-shelf defense against Brady … will that be enough to steal this game as 8.5-point road underdogs?
Spread Stats - Jacksonville is 10-8 ATS overall and that includes a 6-4 spread log away and a 4-2 spread mark when placed in the underdog role. Note that the Jags are a money-burning 32-65-2 ATS when playing outside the AFC South the past 10 years. On the flip side, New England is 12-5 versus the vig overall this season including a current four-game ATS winning streak and the Pats have covered 10 of their last 11 games with the sole spread setback coming in Miami in Week 14 play. The Patriots also have notched pointspread wins in seven of their last eight post-season games.
|4||NY JETS||+ 4.5||Jacksonville||23-20|
|10||J'VILLE||-4.5||LA Chargers||20-17 (ot)|
|16||SAN FRANCISCO||+ 4||Jacksonville||34-33|
WC = Wild Card
DIV = Divisional Playoff
NEW ENGLAND (14-3)
|1||Kansas City||+ 9||N'ENGLAND||42-27|
|2||New England||- 6||NEW ORLEANS||36-20|
|5||New England||- 4||TAMPA BAY||19-14|
|6||New England||- 9||NY JETS||24-17|
|8||N'ENGLAND||- 7||LA Chargers||21-13|
|10||New England||- 7||DENVER||41-16|
|11*||New England||- 7||Oakland||33-8|
|13||New England||- 8||BUFFALO||23-3|
|14||MIAMI||+ 10.5||New England||27-20|
|15||New England||- 2.5||PITTSBURGH||27-24|
|17||N'ENGLAND||- 16||NY Jets||26-6|
DIV = Divisional Playoff
I'VE WON 82% OF MY PLAYS ON CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY SINCE 2007!
I'll Sweep Again THIS Sunday In the Conference Championships
Jaguars at Patriots (-7.5, 45) (3:05pm ET, CBS)
Vikings (-3, 39) at Eagles (6:40pm ET, Fox)
The Jim Hurley Network has profited all year long and even more so in the playoffs.
Wild-card weekend saw us go 4-0, and last week we were 4-1-1 in the Divisional Round.
This Sunday we're going for our 8th Championship Sunday Sweep in the last 12 years!
By season's end, our numbers are laser sharp. The situational factors are gone- it's win or go home for everybody. So the decision is about FOOTBALL - nothing else. And at Jim Hurley's Network we're football fundamentalists. We know the matchups, the playbook, who can beat who man-on-man, squad-on-squad, coach-on-coach.
In addition, our Vegas pipeline have been monitoring the betting patterns on both games and what the Sharps are doing with their favorite teams. Our stat handicappers have all the numbers and trends that tell us exactly what the probabilities are for all four teams to play the game they need to advance to Super Bowl LII. Our winning record on Championship Sunday speaks for itself. Jim is an amazing 27-6-1 the last 10 years (81.2%). CLICK HERE FOR ALL OF SUNDAY'S NFL ACTION Plus Top Basketball as a free bonus
IT'S THE NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - VIKINGS VERSUS EAGLES FOR SUPER BOWL BERTH
Okay, Vikings, is there an encore performance for last week's "Miracle in Minnesota" win that propelled the NFC's #2 seed to this conference championship game in Philadelphia?
And - one question for you Eagles' fans - can this dog-mask-loving team deliver yet another home "upset" here and thus deliver the Birds just their third-ever Super Bowl berth (see 1980, 2004 seasons)?
Hey, there's major drama in the City of Brotherly Love and - from all reports - the weather is gonna cooperate as it warms up (should be in the mid-40s by kickoff, we hear) and so you might just expect a little more offense than usual although the totals price on this tilt sits at 39 points at the current time.
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
MINNESOTA (14-3) at PHILADELPHIA (14-3) - 6:40 p.m. ET, Fox
Funny how fate works: Here's the Philadelphia Eagles in position to get to their first Super Bowl in 13 years and yet the football gods are telling them to get there without MVP candidate/QB Carson Wentz who has been down and out since late in a Week 14 win at the Los Angeles Rams. Is journeyman Nick Foles (23-of-30 for 246 yards passing with 0 INTs in last week's 15-10 NFC Divisional Playoff win against Atlanta) gonna wind up being the toast of Philly … or will the sports talk folks be roasting him at the end of this night?
On the flip side, there's the story of the Minnesota Vikings who turned the football world upside down last week with that QB Case Keenum-to-WR Stefon Diggs 61-yard scoring strike - aided-and-abetted by the New Orleans Saints' secondary - gunning for the franchise's first-ever Super Bowl title and the Vikes would be in their own sweet backyard for that battle against Jacksonville/New England should the NFC North champs make it to Super Bowl LII.
Great storylines coming in, but what's gonna be the storylines going out?
The Vikes need Keenum (an underappreciated 3,547 yards passing with 22 TDs this year) to make some of those downfield chucks - the "Seven Heaven" play worked wonderfully, didn't it? - because running the ball against this fierce Philly defensive front seven ain't gonna be easy. In fact, we believe Keenum may have to throw for 300-plus yards here and make Diggs/WR Adam Thielen regular targets while banking on Mike Zimmer's hard-rock defense to do the rest.
If Foles can stay accurate on those slant passes that worked so well against Atlanta's defense and RB Jay Ajayi (98 yards from scrimmage last weekend) can contribute some big chunk plays here as a rusher/receiver, than the Eagles (starring one of the best offensive lines in football) could make some hay against a Minnesota defense that - remember - yielded 23 first downs and 358 offensive yards to the Saints who were being shut out in the third quarter before rallying in that eventual 29-24 Vikings' win. In other words, Minny's defense is good, but it's not impenetrable.
Spread Stats - Minnesota is 11-5-1 ATS (against the spread) overall this year and the Vikings enter Sunday's showdown in Philly with a 20-12 spread log in all away games the past four years. Note that Minnesota's covered five of its last seven games when in the road favorite's role while dating back to last season. On the flip side, NFC top seed Philadelphia is 11-6 versus the vig overall this season and that includes a dandy 8-3 ATS mark against non-NFC East foes. The Eagles are 12-5 spreadwise at home since the start of last year.
Here's a look at the season logs for both Minnesota and Philadelphia (note all HOME teams in CAPS below):
|1||MINNESOTA||- 3||New Orleans||29-19|
|6||MINNESOTA||+ 3||Green Bay||23-10|
|11||MINNESOTA||- 2||LA Rams||24-7|
|16||Minnesota||- 8.5||GREEN BAY||16-0|
|DIV||MINNESOTA||- 5.5||New Orleans||29-24|
DIV = Divisional Playoff
|2||KANSAS CITY||- 4.5||Philadelphia||27-20|
|3||PHILADELPHIA||- 5||NY Giants||27-24|
|4||Philadelphia||+ 2||LA CHARGERS||26-24|
|8||PHILADELPHIA||- 12.5||San Francisco||33-10|
|14||Philadelphia||- 2.5||LA RAMS||43-35|
|15||Philadelphia||- 7.5||NY GIANTS||34-29|
DIV = Divisional Playoff
NOTE: We begin our Super Bowl LII countdown with the next edition of Jim Sez.