As we have learned throughout the 2017 NFL season, the unpredictable often finds a way of happening.
NFL Conference Championship Sunday should be no different. What happens when “Sacksonville” takes its super star defenders to face the New England Patriots? Quarterback Tom Brady is sure to face some heat. On the other side of the field, we are all wondering which version of Blake Bortles will show up. Either multiple touchdowns or multiple turnovers are definitely possible.
On the NFC front, we will be watching the Minnesota Vikings play in Philadelphia in a game that the defenses might dominate. Perhaps this game comes down to another Hail Mary game-winning touchdown for one side or the other. Either way, this showdown looks to be the lower-scoring one on Sunday’s slate.
With that said, these are our bold predictions for the two conference title games.
Vikings hold Eagles to two field goals
This NFC battle pairs the Eagles’ offense up against the most frightening defense in the league. It also stands to expose quarterback Nick Foles who failed to score in the Divisional playoffs. If he did not find a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons, what is in store for him against the Vikings? Also, do not look for the Eagles running backs to take care of scoring either.
They are up against a Vikings defense that surrendered only 80 rushing yards and zero rushing scores to the New Orleans Saints last week. It is also the same defense that allowed a league-low 15.8 points per game during the regular year. Kicker Jake Elliott had better be prepared to lift his squad up here.
Tom Brady throws for 500 yards and five touchdowns
Brady’s passing yards were on the decline towards the end of the 2017 regular season. Up until last week’s Divisional playoff game, Brady had not thrown for more than 300 yards since Week 11. He was irritating his fantasy football owners left and right with his drop in production.
But now it is go time. Brady is up against the Jaguars defense that might give him some fits, but also allow him the yards and touchdowns we predict. For whatever the reason, the Jags gave up a ridiculous 469 yards through the air as well as five touchdowns to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger last week. Watch Brady rock and roll.
Blake Bortles tosses three interceptions
Speaking of rolling, the Patriots’ defense might just find the keys to making life terrible for Bortles this week. As one of the most unpredictable and inconsistent passers in the league, three interceptions in one game is not unfamiliar territory for Bortles. It was not long ago that he threw three picks in an ugly loss to the San Francisco 49ers back in Week 16.
The even more bold prediction here is the Patriots forcing the interceptions. New England tallied only 12 interceptions in the regular season. But, the Patriots’ defense stands to turn the tables facing the mistake-prone Bortles in prime time.
Adam Thielen regains star receiver role for Vikings
Thielen emerged as the No. 1 receiver midway through 2017. This changes in the divisional round. Thielen recorded six receptions for 74 yards against New Orleans. Meanwhile, Stefon Diggs went for 137 yards on his six catches.
Because of this, we are going to predict that the Eagles put their best resources on Diggs which will free up Thielen for more targets. We last saw Diggs sprint for that game-winning 61-yard score against the Saints. The Eagles will want none of that. Thielen stands to be the X-factor in this Sunday’s game.
Calais Campbell matches Week 1 sack number
“Sacksonville” takes its game to New England to face a quarterback who was sacked 35 times in 2017. This is ridiculous stat that plays well for Campbell and his defense. The veteran pass rusher recorded four sacks back in Week 1. We are calling for a similar performance with Campbell unleashing four sacks on Brady.
Campbell stands to throw a lot of rain on Brady’s parade on Sunday, despite our bold prediction for him. Getting at Brady and rattling his composure will be key for the Jags to have a shot at claiming a win.
Malcolm Jenkins steals a Kyle Rudolph catch
Jenkins may have the task of defending Rudolph, who caught five of his eight targets in the Divisional playoffs. Sure enough, quarterback Case Keenum is going to try to hit up his 6-foot-5 tight end for a score. But, this is when we predict Jenkins swoops in for an interception.
Keenum is not perfect and was intercepted once in the Divisional playoffs. Jenkins might just take advantage for a defense that yielded only five scores to tight ends during the regular year.
Rob Gronkowski gives Brandin Cooks another touchdown celebration pony ride
This season has been all about the fun touchdown celebrations taking place after a team scores. In the week’s AFC title bout, we are calling for an encore pony ride celebration that took place between Gronk and Cooks in Week 12. Pats fans would love this.
Cooks had a quiet game last week, but he stands to take one to the house and score this Sunday. This is taking into consideration the Jaguars allowed Pittsburgh’s No. 1 receiver Antonio Brown two touchdowns in the Divisional playoffs.
If Cooks can follow suit, he and Gronk might just repeat that epic celebration.
Fletcher Cox records a multi-sack game
Cox produced 5.5 sacks in 2017 and added one more in the Divisional playoffs. So, he is on a roll. Therefore, we are predicting Cox busts out two sacks on Keenum this Sunday.
Keenum’s offensive line allowed him to get sacked twice last week against the Saints. Cox’s veteran experience should come into play here with the stakes being high. The bold prediction here stems from the fact that Cox has not produced a multi-sack game since Week 3 of the 2016 season.
Case Keenum launches another game-winning touchdown
Why not? Unlike the AFC showdown expecting tons of points, this game should be in the low-scoring category. We must remember the Eagles’ defense held the Atlanta Falcons to only 10 points in the the Divisional playoffs. It could prove challenging for the Vikings to score. And, this will be especially the case on the ground.
In 2017, the Eagles gave up only seven rushing touchdowns. So this means it could come to Keenum needing to push the Vikings to a win as the clock counts down. We predict this time he hits up Thielen for the game-winning touchdown.