NFL betting news, trends, odds and predictions for Tuesday, January 23, 2018 from various handicappers and websites
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The hand of Tom Brady was the story heading in to Sunday, and by the end of the day it was that same hand that propelled the Patriots to Super Bowl LII. The Jaguars still managed to cover a line that refused to shrink heading in to kick-off, while the Eagles ran roughshod on the absolutely hapless Vikings.
Let’s revisit these mind numbingly surprising AFC and NFC Championship games.
Odds per BetOnline.ag
JAGUARS BUCKLE UNDER PRESSURE AGAINST PATRIOTS
(Jax +7.5 over NE)
There’s a decision in this game that is going to forever haunt Doug Marrone. It wasn’t anything in particular, or just one play. More than anything, it was the mindset he let his players adopt. At some point during the AFC Championship on Sunday, the Jaguars started playing “not to lose” instead of playing “to win”.
Marrone didn’t play scared against Pittsburgh. Think about all those daring, ballistic missile throws that Bortles made against the Pittsburgh Steelers with pressure mounting. The Jaguars knew that the Steelers were capable of scoring at any given moment. So they had to keep putting up points. Simple, right? He knew where to throw the daggers and how to hurt them. Marrone coached the Steelers-Jaguars game like he was out for blood. He wasn’t going to stop until his opponent’s heart wasn’t beating anymore.
That’s not what happened in the AFC Championship. For some reason, the Jaguars started playing scared. It’s like they saw that ticket to the Super Bowl, and didn’t want to do anything to screw it up. They never saw the endzone in the second half, and the truth is that they closest they get was when Josh Lambo drove a 43 yarder through the posts to put them up 20-10.
Jacksonville had basically done everything right. They dominated the clock and time of possession. The running game was absolutely rolling. Myles Jack’s turnover couldn’t have come at a better moment in that game (and he was probably down by contact before you people start yelling about the whistle). You could argue that they should’ve gone for it a few times that they didn’t, but they never left points off the board. Everything was working.
But something changed when the Patriots entered that fourth quarter. Marrone’s team didn’t look to have “it” anymore. They started playing tight. The play calling just wasn’t brazen like it was against Pittsburgh. Fournette kept pounding it up the middle for no gain on first down, and the Jaguars never changed gears.
It’s like they didn’t have a second or third game plan to go to which is dumbfounding when you consider that they were playing the Patriots.
Of course, putting this all on Marrone is silly because the underlying sentiment in the fourth quarter was that “Blake Bortles doesn’t have an 80 yard drive in him”. I don’t know if Marrone didn’t want to risk it, or if he thought his defence could hold out. Taking that gamble against the greatest quarterback of all time, and a coaching staff that has dominated the fourth quarter since the dawn of time, seemed like a poor choice.
Injuries to Marcell Dareus and Myles Jack were unfortunate, but they sort of represented something that was true about the game. The Patriots played four quarters and the Jaguars really only lasted for three. Belichik knew that this game would be a war of attrition, and he had his crew ready to play out the entirety of the clock. That’s basically what this game came down to.
The Jaguars did what most expected and covered the spread, but I’m not exactly sure how that game plays out if Gronkowski is in the game the whole time. It’s worth pointing out that Brady and the Patriots found a way to answer the bell in the second half without their biggest offensive threat. He should be fine for the Super Bowl. If Gronk plays the second half, I’m confident that his impact on the defence changes the complexion of that weird third quarter that had way too much kicking. So I’m not beating myself up for losing the cover while betting the Patriots.
Most certainly I’m thankful for an incredible football game, and a perfectly timed reminder that the Patriots are never out until the clock reads zero. You’d think the Jaguars would’ve learned that lesson from the Falcons. But that’s what happens when you don’t entirely trust your quarterback.
To borrow a phrase, the Patriots are who we thought they were and the Jaguars let them off the hook.
VIKINGS PERFORM PERFECTLY AS LETDOWN GAME LOSERS
(Phi +3 over Min)
I wrote about the fact that the Vikings were the biggest letdown candidate of all time last week, and still convinced myself that they were worth taking against Nick Foles and the Eagles. The gambling rules that we all create help frame certain decisions, but this was one time where I just felt like Minnesota had it in the bag. Turns out that they left Philly in body bags instead.
These were classic letdown credentials. A massive win the week before under miraculous conditions, hitting the road as favorites, entering hostile territory against a team that they outclassed by all accounts…everything there screamed “bet the Eagles”. And I didn’t. A lot of people didn’t. And we got hosed.
I will say this – betting the Vikings wasn’t a bad bet by any stretch. They were the better team, they just didn’t play like it on Sunday night.
Credit Nick Foles for taking his sweet time to restore his place as a viable starter. That guy looked incredible on Sunday night, throwing for a bazillion yards and touchdowns any time he damn well felt like it. He played comfortable, precise and poised the entire way through and the Eagles rode him to one of the easiest and most lopsided victories in NFC Championship history.
It also didn’t help that Case Keenum had his worst game of the year, accounting for three turnovers that all came at the worst, possible times. His pick-six in the first quarter gave the Eagles all the momentum, and the Vikings never found their footing again. At no point did the Vikings ever feel like they had a Patriots-style comeback in their bones. When Philadelphia went up 24-7 to enter the half, the game practically felt like it was over.
Keenum has likely cost himself tens of millions with that performance, which stinks. The guy played his heart out on a $2 million contract and got his team to the doorstep. He has his warts, but performance in big games can overshadow individual flaws when it comes to free agency. Unfortunately, the lasting memory of Keenum from the 2017 season will be his outrageously, ill-timed diaper filler in the NFC Championship.
This is great for Philadelphia, a franchise that made all the right moves for a fan base that hasn’t been to the big dance since 2005 when they lost to Tom Brady as McNabb infamously vomited away a two-minute drill. They enter as +5.5 dogs in Super Bowl LII, which is fair considering a bunch of stuff I will save for a future piece.
Finally, God bless those greasy pole climbing Philadelphia fans. You guys are unstoppable. Even batches of Crisco applied by city workers before the game couldn’t stop you guys from celebrating in style.
You deserve it, and can now enjoy two weeks of talking yourselves in to beating New England on the biggest stage of them all.
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