Josh Katzowitz's Conference Championship NFL Picks
With the exception of the Patriots, the playoff teams this year have been unwieldy and unpredictable. Tennessee winning a playoff game only to fire its coach. Jacksonville going on a serious run to beat the Bills and the Steelers. The Eagles, with Nick Foles at quarterback, beating the favorite Falcons.
Well, at least we can all bet on New England. At least the Patriots don’t give us a heart attack every time they play.
And on that note, let’s get to the predictions for the conference championship games. This week, we’ll forgo our regular categories of “Bet your life savings on this game” (where I finished the year 14-5 S/U and 9-10 ATS), “This game scares the hell out of me” (where I finished 10-9 S/U and 10-8-1 ATS), and “Fun game of the week” (where I finished 13-6 S/U and 10-8-1 ATS)—overall on these categories, I finished 37-20 S/U and 29-26-2 ATS.
Let’s just predict just two games of football. As usual, check out Pickwatch’s John Halpin’s full slate of playoff picks. Now, here are a few of mine (If I’m right, make sure to congratulate me @jkatzo on Twitter).
Jaguars at Patriots
Normally, I’d be inclined to say the Patriots will take this and take it rather easily. They haven’t been seriously challenged in a game in about a month, and it’s always going to be difficult to bet against the combination of coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. And remember, the Jaguars hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2007 and have made a conference championship game only twice in the 23 years the franchise has existed. It’s not like the club has a culture of winning. But this year, the defense has been stupendous, quarterback Blake Bortles has turned into a solid NFL quarterback, and the team clearly has plenty of confidence. I don’t think Jacksonville will beat the Patriots in New England. But I think the Jaguars can make it closer than many expect.
Straight up: Patriots
Against the spread: Jaguars +8.5
Vikings at Eagles
After the Minneapolis Miracle, doesn’t it appear that anything is possible from the Vikings? Doesn’t it feel like Minnesota is a team of destiny? Well, not necessarily. But there’s little doubt the Vikings are a really good football team who happened to get a little lucky to beat the Saints after blowing a large halftime lead against New Orleans. Regardless, the Vikings are still alive to face the Eagles, and here’s why they’ll win to go to the Super Bowl: their defense is too good for Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles to traverse. If Minnesota can hinder Philadelphia’s running game the same way the Vikings did to the Saints last week, that’ll force Foles to have to beat the Vikings by himself. And that simply won’t happen.
Straight up: Vikings
Against the spread: Vikings -2.5
NE over JAC JAC +8.5
MIN over PHI MIN -2.5