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The Patriots are 5-2 SU/3-4 ATS in the 7 Super Bowls that Brady has played in. Their 5 wins have been by 3, 3, 3, 4 and 6 points and all came with a major blunder by their opponent late in the game. The Jaguars feel like they let a win get away 2 weeks ago as they controlled the game for 3 quarters. Philadelphia has developed a strong resolve and have taken very personally that they were underdogs at home in 2 playoff games where they were the NFC’s top seed. Pederson has yet to forge a resume like Belichick but he has surprised people with how quickly he got this team to play at such a high level even after QB Carson Wentz was injured and they lost several other starters. The Patriots ‘D’ tends to have issues early and I like the Eagles to strike quickly before the Patriots begin their in-game adjustments. Philly’s defense has been good throughout the year and is really playing well since Wentz was lost. They have put the team on their shoulders and want to lessen the pressure on Foles. They don’t want to get into a shootout with NE and I think they can slow down this offense with their run defense and their aggressive pass defense, keyed by veteran FS Malcolm Jenkins. They need to make things hard for Gronkowski and avoid the penalties on deep pass plays that torpedoed the Jaguars. I think the resilience of the Eagles will come through and while they may not win the game, I think they can keep it close.
I rode the Eagles as underdogs against Atlanta and Minnesota, but stepping up their game to an even higher level to get past the NFL’s best team is not one of my most confident plays. I would lean their way if the spread jumps back up to five or hopefully six points by the time kickoff rolls around, but the current 4.5-point spread is a bit too tight. The best way to go in this game is the OVER 48 on the total line. Each of these offenses should be able to score at least 24 points on a fast track indoors.
The Vikings are a road favorite and some figure the Eagles will respond in a big way like they did last week (although that late goal-line stand had something to do with it.) The truth is, Philadelphia has scored 15, 0 and 19 points in their past 3 games, all of which Foles played the majority. This is a very different offense without the injured QB Carson Wentz and I don’t feel Foles can put a lot of points on the board this week. Minnesota has arguably the league’s best defense and learned a very valuable lesson against New Orleans; even with a 17-point lead, you can’t let up in the NFL. If they get a lead this week, I expect them to keep coming and test the secondary on deep throws. Murray and McKinnon will have a bumpy ride but I feel they can get enough yards to keep the defense honest. At the end of the day, I think the Vikings have the better defense and the better offense and the thrill of playing in the Super Bowl at home is just the icing on the cake.
I was impressed with the way that Jacksonville moved the ball up and down the field against Pittsburgh and the Jaguars have the added edge of playing with house money as heavy road underdogs. That being said, you still have to ride the hotter hand in this Sunday’s showdown with a play on New England at the current 9.5-point spread. The Patriots are playing their best ball of the year with their sights firmly set on winning another world title.
Minnesota has won 11 of their past 12 games and is the hottest team in the league. They could also be the first team to play in and host the Super Bowl as well as be the first to play in a league championship. Keenum isn’t flashy but has gotten the job done (22-7 TD/INT ratio, 1 lost fumble) due to his composure and decision making. He doesn’t rush his throws and isn’t easily rattled. A good running game has helped as has a top defense. Brees can still make big plays but I think he will have trouble with this pass rush and more so if Kamara and Ingram are contained. I expect the Vikings to win at home and become the first team to host a conference championship in a Super Bowl city. Their defense will be the determining factor.
With the number this high, it’s hard to think the Titans have a chance to win this game. I think they learned a valuable lesson last week; start slow and your season could be over in an hour. They were a little lucky to come back against KC but that came against a team and head coach with limited playoff success. Now they face the kings of the playoffs but I think they will be ready. They have gone all in on Henry and he has rewarded them with some strong performances. Mariota has had an up-and-down year but is capable of making big plays when needed. If he can keep some drives alive with his legs, it will give the defense something more to deal with. Brady has looked a little shaky (for him) over the past month and he’ll have to be aware of FS Kevin Byard and his 8 interceptions when he drops back to pass. I don’t expect the Titans to win this game but I do have a small lean in their direction with the number being so big.
Do not look for Jacksonville to put up 30 points again at Heinz Field this Sunday, but its defense will continue to pose problems for Big Ben and the Steelers’ high-powered offense. The only way the Jaguars have any chance of pulling off the season sweep is to keep things within a touchdown deep into the fourth quarter. I actually like Jacksonville’s chances to keep things close enough for the ATS win, but my ‘best bet’ pick is the UNDER on the current 41-point line.
Atlanta has some solid momentum heading into this game with the way it handled the Rams, but Philadelphia is still well rested and healthy coming off a bye with the luxury of playing this game at one of the most hostile places in the NFL for visiting teams. Not to diminish what Wentz ment to this team, the Eagles are still one of the most balanced teams in the league across every phase of the game. I may be going way out on a limb in this ‘best bet’ pick, but I will take the three points and the home team in this one.
A good team rarely beats another good team 3 times in a season but I like the Saints this week. Brees has been a reliable starter throughout his career while Newton has had a very peaks and valleys career up to now. His performance was bad last week as was his 2 outings vs. New Orleans this year. Brees no longer has to do everything himself and the ground game is a real weapon. The Panthers don’t have a lot of weapons on offense but a healthy Olsen (check status) would greatly aid their cause. SS Vonn Bell would likely be assigned to Olsen and he can’t let the veteran get off to a fast start. Overall, the Saints pass defense is no longer a pushover and rookie CB Marshon Lattimore (5 picks) has been a very positive addition. The points are a little high for a division rivalry but I like the Saints to pick up their first playoff win since 2013 and get the cover at home.
Both teams have things going for them in this matchup. Atlanta made the Super Bowl last year and has a huge edge in playoff experience. Their slow start (4-4) also meant they had to work very hard in the second half just to make the playoffs (6-2 in 2nd half). They should be able to run the ball and that will greatly aid the passing game where Ryan hasn’t been his best this campaign. LA became the first team in the expansion era to go from last to first in scoring in one year. However, they did feast on a lot of the weak sisters in the league and were 2-2 SU vs. playoff teams. Gurley is amongst the league’s best weapons right now and it will take a lot from the Falcons defense to contain him. In the end, I’m going to side with the dog in this one. They’re getting points, have the edge in experience and have the running game to give this defense trouble. Their team speed on defense should also come into play.