It is enterprise as regular for one staff this week, because the Patriots put together to take the sector within the AFC Championship Recreation for the seventh straight season. For the opposite three remaining groups it is uncharted territory with the present forged of characters, headlined in fact by Blake Bortles, Case Keenum and Nick Foles. To suppose not less than certainly one of them is in line to begin below middle on Tremendous Sunday is staggering, and the potential of Tom Brady beginning his eighth Tremendous Bowl in opposition to a QB who wasn’t among the many NFC’s 16 starters when the season started is one thing to behold.
However there’s yet one more hurdle to clear earlier than the large recreation, and for all of the uncertainty the NFL has offered this season – as evidenced by the Bortles/Keenum/Foles trio nonetheless standing among the many last 4 – edges stay available for the bettors who finest interpret the Rorschach blot that’s skilled soccer in 2018.
Jacksonville First Half +6 at New England
Final week’s put up famous the NFL’s #1 protection based on DVOA had solely been an underdog of a landing or extra twice on this decade. The Jaguars made it thrice within the Divisional Spherical and improved the #1 protection’s document on this setting to Three-Zero in opposition to the unfold, together with two outright wins this season by Jacksonville.
Taking a look at this matchup particularly, the Jaguars’ means to generate stress with out blitzing – a line of defense with 4 totally different gamers to document not less than eight sacks does not want a lot assist – provides them an actual likelihood to disrupt Brady and the Patriots’ offense within the early going.
Competing for the total 60 minutes essential to make it Four-Zero in opposition to the unfold on this decade for the #1 protection getting 7 or extra factors, nevertheless, is likely to be an excessive amount of to ask. This marks the Jaguars’ fourth highway recreation in 5 weeks, and their 12th recreation in 12 weeks since a Week eight bye, which can have them fading down the house stretch – particularly in comparison with a fresh-as-can-be Patriots staff that is been dwelling for greater than a month and in that span benefited from a first-round bye and cruised to victory as a double-digit favourite in every of its solely three video games.
For extra logic behind limiting a Jaguars funding to the primary half, Invoice Belichick has led his staff to a scoring differential of 80-25 within the second half of playoff video games the previous two seasons, discounting the Titans’ landing drive in rubbish time final Saturday night time.
Whereas the Patriots may draw back because the freshness vs. fatigue and Belichick vs. Doug Marrone elements get magnified whereas the sport wears on, the Jaguars can preserve it aggressive early so long as there’s sufficient vitality to come back out cracking the whip.
Philadelphia +Three.5 vs. Minnesota
With two top-five defenses going head-to-head in opposition to two uninspiring QBs, this one has the makings of a basic low-variance, low-scoring grinder through which neither staff ever builds a lot of a margin.
We did see final week that Foles can not less than be competent, to the tune of finishing 77% of his passes at greater than eight yards per try for a triple-digit passer ranking. Whereas the attention take a look at wasn’t that form to Foles and it will probably take greater than competence from him to get the Eagles to the Tremendous Bowl, the identical type of competence from him this week can cowl this level unfold.
Freshness additionally favors the house staff in Philadelphia, because it does New England within the AFC Championship Recreation, albeit to a lesser extent. Just like the Patriots, the Eagles profit from a second straight playoff dwelling recreation and an additional day of relaxation after taking good care of enterprise final Saturday. The Vikings, in the meantime, have needed to flip the web page shortly after a “tear down the goalposts” win that noticed 4 lead adjustments within the last three minutes, together with an unforgettable ending. Motivation isn’t the difficulty with a Tremendous Bowl look at stake – particularly with the prospect of a house Tremendous Bowl for Minnesota – but it surely might be a slight problem to bounce again on the highway in opposition to a extra rested opponent after such a bodily and mentally draining recreation, and the slightest points generally loom largest in video games of this magnitude.
The Vikings are the higher staff, however with a dominant protection and a reliable QB of their very own, plus home-field benefit and a slight edge in freshness, the Eagles have what it takes to remain inside placing distance on this setting. They is likely to be dwelling underdogs as soon as once more, however that seems to be a task they’ve come to embrace.
Choose of the Week: Teaser – New England -2 vs. Jacksonville, Philadelphia +10.5 vs. Minnesota
A 7-point teaser comes at a premium, however on this case it nets premium numbers in return. There are no breakthrough handicapping elements in both leg of the teaser as a result of the market does not let a lot slip by means of the cracks at this level within the season, however there’s sufficient logic in play to get leverage by crossing by means of key numbers.
Sticking with the NFC Championship Recreation and doubling down on the Eagles, it boils all the way down to variance (or an absence thereof). In a recreation projected to see lower than 40 factors, teasing Philadelphia up by means of 7 and 10 will increase the relative worth of every level about as a lot as potential. The defenses concerned are too good to depart a lot on the desk for the offenses, and Keenum and Foles aren’t dynamic sufficient to make huge performs with out favorable circumstances. If the Eagles +Three.5 wager falls brief, it is more likely to be a Vikings win by Four, 6 or 7 than a margin larger than 10.
Within the AFC matchup, teasing the Patriots down by means of 7 and three means taking the superior QB, superior coach, superior pedigree, and the a lot brisker staff to do little greater than win outright at dwelling. The Jaguars may pose a problem within the early phases, however by means of no fault of their very own they may not have sufficient left within the tank to close down the Patriots within the second half even when it had been Invoice Belichick and his arm at QB.
Final week: 2-1
Picks of the Week: 13-5-1
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