Conference championship picks: Pats end Jags’ great run; underdog Eagles advance to SB

  • Nick Celario

The first week of the NFL postseason, I was 3-1 with my predictions.

With last weekend’s divisional round games, I was 1-3.

Ouch. That was about as bad as how my fantasy football season went.

My one correct pick was taking the New England Patriots over the Tennessee Titans. (Sorry, Marcus Mariota fans.)

Mariota did throw for two touchdowns against the Pats. Maybe against any other team in the AFC, he’d have a chance. But again, against the Evil Empire that is Tom Brady, Bill Bellichick and the Patriots, this was the easiest pick.

The Jacksonville Jaguars might have turned doubters into believers after stunning the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Jags rookie rusher Leonard Fournette ran like I thought he would in the opening round against the Buffalo Bills, totaling 109 yards rushing and three TDs.

After the dud that was the Atlanta Falcons blowing a huge second-half lead in last year’s Super Bowl, the Dirty Birds won’t get the chance to correct that wrong after falling to the Philadelphia Eagles.

I assumed the Eagles had no chance after Carson Wentz went down to injury. Fill-in QB Nick Foles did well enough going 23-30 for 246 yards. That and a defense that bent but didn’t break brought Philly its first playoff win since 2008, according to the Associated Press.

Lastly, I believed Drew Brees would have one last great playoff run with the New Orleans Saints. Perhaps I chose my heart over my head because Brees is great, and I’d like to see him win one more. With three second half TDs, he could have continued that story.

Those hopes were dashed with a last-second toss from Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs for 61 yards to the end zone. (To Saints DB Marcus Williams, who missed badly on that tackle on Diggs which would have saved the win for the Saints, keep your head up. It could have happened to anybody.)

On that note, let’s move forward. Here’s my picks for Sunday’s conference championship games:

Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots; Patriots -8 favorite

Many predicted the defense would be the reason the Jaguars would escape Heinz Field with a win a move on.

A win is a win, but the Steelers hung 42 points on them. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 469 yards and five touchdowns. Other than a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown, it wasn’t a performance the Jags D will be boasting about.

Now, this vaunted Jags defense will be tested in another future hall of famer in Brady.

Maybe the Steelers weren’t prepared for Fournette, and he ran all over them. I believe the Pats will focus heavily on Fournette and the run game, and force Blake Bortles to try to beat them. I just don’t see it happening.

It’s been a great run for the Jaguars, truly. And it’s been a helluva a rookie campaign for Fournette. I hate to say this, but Brady and Co. will be moving on and going for their sixth Super Bowl ring (seriously, that’s just not fair). Pick: Patriots.

Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles; Vikings -3 favorite

The underdog No. 1 seed Eagles — the first in NFL history — stuck it to their doubters wearing those dog masks. (If you don’t know, Google search it. You’ll get a laugh out of it.)

Both the Eagles and Vikings have top-ranked defenses. So, is this a battle of backup QBs?

If so, I’ll take the one who has home field advantage. Though just slight underdogs, I’m picking the dog Eagles to go to their first Super Bowl since 2004.

Also, I just read a story that after Lane Johnson and Chris Long wore those dog masks after their win over the Falcons, dog masks quickly sold out on Amazon and other purveyors.

Expect a loud and very doggy Philadelphia home crowd. Pick: Eagles.


Nick Celario can be reached at


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.