Sunday night, the final NFL night baring the Superbowl until September for UK fans., if you don’t include the All Star Pro Bowl game next Sunday. Now we’re down to the final 4, and by 3.30am UK time on Monday morning, we will know who will contest Superbowl 52 in Minneapolis.
First up for the AFC title, London’s team the Jacksonville Jaguars take on the most successful team of the modern era, the New England Patriots. The Jags stunned Pittsburgh last weekend with an outstanding performance both offensively and defensively. QB Blake Bortles led the team with an assured performance, whilst the D made some big plays despite the Steelers scoring 42 points. To beat the Pats though, they can’t afford to give up as many points.
Whilst Pats QB Tom Brady has missed practise a fair bit this week, I wouldn’t expect him to miss the game and with the good protection he receives from is offensive line, it should protect the injury a fair bit. The Jags will target that weak spot and I think we will see a fair bit of blitzing from the Jag’s defensive co-ordinator to capitalise on this.
The Patriots will be strong favourites as always, but this season we have seen Foxborough is not a fortress as before and there is a small chink of vulnerability the Jags must exploit to get to the Superbowl, the under dog may well get it’s day.
The NFC Championship is certainly more clear cut in my opinion. Two franchises chasing different records, the Eagles are yet to win the Superbowl and had the best record throughout the regular season, the Vikings are hoping to be the first franchise to host and play in a Superbowl.
Despite a shaky start against the Falcons last weekend, QB Nick Foles led the offence through a tight game and the D stood up well to Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. Foles doesn’t looks as comfortable as Carson Wentz has all season and the Vikings will look to get after Foles at every opportunity, the crowd will be expectant for the Vikings to deliver.
QB Case Keenam has been a revelation for the Vikings this season and to pull that throw out of the bag in the last few seconds of that dramatic finish last Sunday against the Saints was nothing short of remarkable. The Saints believed they had done enough to win that game, but Keenam wasn’t done, the play series was executed well, although a small bit of help from the Saints cornerback who missed a tackle on Vikings WR Stefon Riggs giving him a free run to the end zone and a ticket to the Conference game.
Predictions for the games, well the game would benefit more if the Jags beat the Patriots but it will take a lot of things to come together for that to happen, at the same time it can grow the game even further in the UK if the Jags become Superbowl champions.
In the NFC, the Vikings have more than enough to defeat the Eagles, despite a better showing by Foles last week I’m still not convinced he can lead Philadelphia to the Superbowl. Despite the pressure there could be on the Vikings to make it on their home turf, I believe Keenam will get them there and create history in the process.