As the NFC and AFC championship games draw closer, New York football fans are finding themselves becoming more disengaged from the proceedings. With the 3-13 Giants picking up the pieces from their inexplicably horrendous season and the 5-11 Jets still wallowing even though they won more games than expected, this weekend’s games leave New York fans little to root for.
The big news in New York right now in regards to the NFL is who the Giants are planning to hire as their head coach (reportedly Minnesota OC Pat Shurmur is the choice) and the Jets firing yet another offensive coordinator. The games are long over and for fans looking for some type of football to grasp onto, they will have to begrudgingly look on as teams they either hate or are indifferent to aspire to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
The AFC Championship pits the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots against the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars up in Foxborough. Despite the Jags possessing the one of the top defenses in the NFL, the Pats are 8 1/2 point favorites. No one is believing the hype, no matter what guarantees Jags safety Jalen Ramsay is brazenly making. One factor that may have dropped the line by a point is the news that Tom Brady injured his throwing hand in practice.
In the NFC, the hated Philadelphia Eagles host the starless Minnesota Vikings in Philadelphia. The Vikings are three-point faves in this one, even though they needed a last-second miracle to get past the New Orleans Saints last week in the Divisional round.
Both teams will be guided by backup quarterbacks. The Eagles have been forced to rely on Nick Foles after the late-season injury to MVP candidate Carson Wentz. The Vikes have been riding journeyman QB Case Keenam after watching Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater fail to answer the bell.
What might interest New York fans….The Giants are set to hire Vikings’ offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur as their new head coach. If the Vikings lose, you can expect that to happen next week. If the Vikings win, Shurmur’s hiring waits another two weeks and he comes to East Rutherford with some more street cred.
Another angle is the Tom Coughlin Story. Coughlin has turned the Jaguars into a contender in his first season as the team’s executive vice president of football operations. He still has many rooters here in the tri-state area and it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to see them go to the Super Bowl, especially at the expense of the hated Patriots. That might be the only reason Jet fans will have to watch the games – to see the Pats lose.
The Eagles-Vikings game promises to be a defensive battle. It’s hard to see the Vikings coming into Philly and lighting up this Eagle defense. On the flip side, the Eagles struggled against a lesser Falcons defense in the Divisional round, so what headway will they be able to make against Minnesota? This game could come down to special teams, meaning the kickers. Your best bet might be to take the under, which is 38 1/2.
Everyone is falling in love with “Sacksonville” and their swarming, athletic defense. Don’t be fooled. Vegas makes few mistakes. This line is 8 1/2 for a reason. Yes, the Jags have a defense that could give Brady fits but that may be their only advantage. They themselves may have a hard time scoring against a much-improved Pats defense. After a disastrous first month, New England’s defense has become one of the league’s best. They have only allowed 20 or more points in a game twice since Oct. 1, six rushing TDs all year and have the most takeaways in the red zone. It’s hard to see Blake Bortles beating them.
Meanwhile, the Jags are coming off a game in which they allowed 42 points and 545 yards to the Steelers. Their defense has been getting beat regularly, with the exception of the WildCard win over anemic Buffalo. In the final three games of the regular season, the Jags surrendered an average of 346 yards per game after averaging 280 YPG the first three months. The point may be a stretch in this one, but the over is 46. Take that and root for a lot of scoring.