Last weekend’s Divisional Round lived up to expectations, and that’s putting it lightly.
Aside from the New England Patriots’ expectedly efficient blowout win over the Tennessee Titans, NFL fans and bettors were treated to three close contests that went down to the wire.
For an encore, the league’s four remaining contenders will clash this Sunday to crown respective conference champions in the AFC and NFC. To get your weekly preparations started before the big games, check out the game capsules below featuring the latest point spreads and totals posted by online sportsbook Bovada.
#3 Jacksonville Jaguars (12-6) @ #1 New England Patriots (14-3) – 3:05 p.m. EST on CBS
In winning a 10-3 rock fight over the Bills on Wild Card Weekend, the Jaguars flashed the kind of defensive prowess that has defined the AFC upstarts all year. But afterward, sack-master Calais Campbell told reporters that Jacksonville would relish any playoff victories, even in a 45-42 shootout.
Of course, Campbell’s prophecy proved to be eerily prescient. His Jags dominated the Steelers in the early going last weekend, staking themselves to a 28-7 lead before fending the Killer B’s comeback bid in a back-and-forth 45-42 battle.
Jacksonville will need another bold prediction to bear fruit this Sunday if they hope to notch another upset. According to outspoken cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the Jaguars are “going to the Super Bowl” – and only the defending champion Patriots stand in their way.
The Jags are headed to the unfriendly confines of Foxboro, where the Pats have won eight straight playoff games. Based on their pedigree, combined with that pristine performance of late on home turf, New England has been named as a major (-9) favorite.
Both teams boast elite units on either side of the ball.
The aforementioned Jacksonville defense – led by Ramsey, Campbell, and cornerback A.J. Bouye – trailed only Minnesota in terms of total yardage allowed (4,578), yards per game (286.1), and points per game (16.8) during the regular season.
Backed by Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots offense led the league in total yardage gained (6,307) and yards per game (394.2), while scoring a second-best 28.6 points per. But following an early season lapse, the Patriots have tightened up on defense as well, ending the year at fifth in the NFL with just 18.5 points allowed on average.
That surprisingly stingy red zone defense may explain the 9-point spread in favor of New England, along with the relatively low total of 46.5 points.
#2 Minnesota Vikings (14-3) @ #1 Philadelphia Eagles (14-3) – 6:40 p.m. EST on FOX
Football fans worldwide were stunned last Sunday when Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs took a last-ditch sideline pass straight to the house and stole an NFC Championship spot from the Saints.
But one day earlier, the betting community suffered a similar shock when the heavily favored Falcons fell to the Eagles. Less than 25 percent of wagers backed Philly on that day, what with backup quarterback Nick Foles forced into duty after a late-season injury to second-year star Carson Wentz.
For the first time in NFL history, a top-seeded team playing with home field advantage was declared the underdog – a role the Philly fans and players alike relished. They’ll have another chance to break out the dog masks that went viral last weekend, as the Eagles are 3.5-point home dogs in this one.
Philadelphia posted an impressive 7-1 regular season record at “The Linc,” but Minnesota fared similarly well with a 6-2 road record.
This should be a defensive slugfest, featuring the league-leading Vikings against an Eagles team that allowed 4,904 total yards, 306.5 yards per game, and 18.4 points per (all 4th overall)