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Brady to play against Jacksonville; Patriots and Vikings favored heading into Sunday

A preview of the AFC and NFC Championship games

January 20, 2018 - 9:06 am
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Joe DiBiase reporting
@DiBiaseWGR

Case Keenum, Nick Foles, Blake Bortles, and.... Brian Hoyer? Not if Tom Brady has anything to say about it. Brady is reportedly going to play this Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars after was officially listed as questionable for the AFC Championship game.

Both the AFC and NFC Championship will be live on WGR this Sunday, with the winners meeting for Super Bowl LII on February 4th at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


AFC Championship

Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots (-7) - 3:05 p.m.

TV: CBS (Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson)

Foxboro Weather: 42-degrees, Partly cloudy, No wind

The biggest storyline heading into the Jaguars and Patriots matchup is the health of Brady. He injured his right thumb at practice on Wednesday, forcing him to miss Thursday's session. He was on the field Friday, but reportedly didn't take any snaps under center due to discomfort. The specifics of his injury were reported Friday afternoon:

Despite the questionable tag, Brady will play, but his injury being on his throwing hand could effect his play against a stout Jaguars defense. This will be Brady and Belichick's 12th AFC Championship game, and their sixth championship game in a row.

These two teams did meet in the AFC Championship once before in 1996, before the Brady and Belichick era. The Patriots topped the Jaguars 20-6 in that game, but went on to lose in the Super Bowl to the Green Bay Packers. Drew Bledsoe was the Patriots' quarterback, and he'll serve as an honorary captain for the team this Sunday.

The Jaguars will need to get the same Blake Bortles they got last week in Pittsburgh, where he threw for 214 pass yards, one touchdown, and rushed for 35 yards along with no turnovers and no sacks. Another similar performance might get it done again for Jacksonville if their run game and defense doesn't break against New England.

The only injury of note for Jacksonville is veteran safety Tashaun Gipson, who is questionable with a foot injury. Other Patriots questionable for this game are running backs Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee, and defensive lineman Alan Branch.



NFC Championship

Minnesota Vikings (-3) at Philadelphia Eagles - 6:40 p.m.

TV: FOX (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews)

Philadelphia Weather: 44 degrees, Cloudy, No wind


It's rare that a top-seed is an underdog for both their home playoff games, but that's the situation for the Philadelphia Eagles. They're a win away from reaching the Super Bowl, despite losing MVP caliber quarterback Carson Wentz to a torn ACL in the regular season. With Nick Foles at the helm, Philadelphia is 3-0, including their win over the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round. That does not include their 6-0 loss to Dallas in Week 17, when Foles and many starters were rested.

The Eagles were regular visitors to the conference title game in the early 2000s. They went four years in a row, from 2001 to 2004, but won just once. This is their first NFC Championship game since they lost to the Arizona Cardinals in 2008.

Meanwhile, the Vikings make their first trip to the NFC title game since 40-year old Brett Favre took them there in 2009. Minnesota has not advanced past this game since 1976, when they advanced to Super Bowl XI against the Oakland Raiders. If the Vikings win, it'll be the first time a host city's team reaches the Super Bowl.

This game could be a very low scoring affair. Both the Vikings and Eagles have stout defenses, and favorable matchups against Foles and Case Keenum. The Vikings were first in the NFL in fewest yards per-attempt by their opponent, while the Eagles were third. The over/under point total in this game is just 38.5.

If Keenum is able to be productive, Minnesota is virtually unbeatable. They were 8-1 this season when he threw for over 225 yards. Keenum's 318 passing yards last week against the New Orleans Saints were the second-most he's thrown for all season. Obviously, a big chunk of those yards came on the 61-yard walk-off touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs at the end of the game. One of Keenum's top weapons, Adam Thielen, may be hindered by a back injury for this game. He's officially listed as questionable, but is expected to play.

The backup quarterback situation for Minnesota might even be interesting as Sam Bradford dressed as the second string quarterback last week, while Teddy Bridgewater was inactive. Whether or not that means anything for free agency will be up for debate as all three could be available this offseason.

Be sure to catch both games on WGR, with coverage of both games starting at 2 p.m.

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