Three of last week’s four NFL Divisional Playoff games turned out to be dramatic, entertaining or both while the fourth game still came down to the final two minutes before bettors learned the fate of their Over/Under wagers.
That game was New England’s 35-14 win over Tennessee in which the Titans touchdown with two minutes left sent the game OVER the Total of 48 after the ‘all important’ extra point was kicked. Interestingly the Titans scored both the first and last touchdowns of the game but their 7-0 lead was followed by five New England TDs which send the Patriots to their seventh straight AFC Championship game.
The Pats will host Jacksonville, 45-42 winners at Pittsburgh for their second win of the season in the Steel City. The Jags took control early with some aggressive play calling and their usual defensive tenacity that allowed them to jump out to leads of 21-0 and 28-7. The Steelers rallied to within 7 points a couple of times before ultimately falling in a game that featured 87 total points. The betting Total of 40 was exceeded when Pittsburgh scored just before halftime to trail 28-14 at recess.
The two NFC games were about as contrasting as possible. On Saturday Philadelphia won a tightly contested, low scoring 15-10 game over Atlanta. On Sunday Minnesota took a 17-0 lead into halftime only to see New Orleans rally and appear to have completed a successful comeback, leading 24-23 with just 25 seconds remaining. And then the play you’ve probably seen dozens of time as Minny QB Case Keenum found Stefon Diggs on the sideline of what resulted in an improbable 61 yard touchdown as time expired.
In the NFC we have a matchup of 1 seed Philadelphia hosting 2 seed Minnesota and in the AFC it’s No.1 New England hosting No. 3 Jacksonville. Of the four only Jacksonville is playing a third straight Playoff game as the other three had Byes during Wild Card Week prior to last week’s Divisional round games.
The NFL needs to do away with that silly rule that requires the extra point to be attempted following the touchdown on the play the sends the clock to 0:00 at the end of the fourth quarter, absolutely the final play of the game. There really is no need for that attempt (except for those bettors who laid minus 5 or 5.5 with the Vikings on Sunday).
On to the games that will determine which two teams will play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy that goes to the winner of Super Bowl 52 in two weeks, February 4, in Minneapolis.
Jacksonville +9 over New England (O/U 46): Since 1990 favorites of more than 7 points but less than or equal to 10 points are just 6-5 SU and 5-6 ATS which is surprising given that lines in this range suggest the favored team is clearly the better team but not a dominant one. The Jaguars bring some solid qualities into this game including a running game that led the NFL in yards per game, a defense that led the league in fewest passing yards allowed per game.
The Jags also have a key executive in Tom Coughlin who oversees football operations. Coughlin knows something about matching wits with Patriots coach Bill Belichick and designing defensive schemes to attack and frustrate QB Tom Brady. Coughlin was the coach of the team that knocked off the unbeaten 18-0 Patriots in 2007. And he did it again in their Super Bowl rematch in 2011.
It’s been a great season for the Jags who are positioned for success over the next few seasons. If they were facing any team other than the Patriots and had more in the way of post season experience it would much easier to call for the upset. NEW ENGLAND / UNDER
Minnesota -3.5 at Philadelphia (38.5): One of these franchises will get the chance to win their first Super Bowl title as they are a combined 0-6 in the Big Game. In facing the Vikings the Eagles’ offense is stepping up in class but the defense they faced against Atlanta is a better defense than the Saints’ defense faced by Minnesota.
The Eagles have been the team to beat in the NFC since the first month of the season and this is more than a team that has won just because of strong QB play as referenced previously. In the absence of the road favorite being a truly dominant team it is harder to justify laying points against a team that has performed so well at home.
The Eagles won last week as a home dog and their tough, defensive win over Atlanta was no less ‘flukey’ than the Vikings victory over the Saints. Both teams got to this final game albeit in far different ways. PHILADELPHIA / UNDER
Last week: 5-3