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Play action or pass: Defense wins Championship round

Play action or pass: Defense wins Championship round
Ignore the miracle. The Vikings defense is the key. Vikings.com

While the debris from the miraculous game-ending touchdown remains, the aftermath devises bettors short-term memory to overlook the frightening defense that Minnesota fields. Many are still focusing on the final play they created on a hope and a prayer, while others will remember the defensive debacle in the fourth quarter of last week's game. The manner in which the game ended seems to have created a false sense of identity to who the Vikings have been all year. Perception of Case Keenum's arm being a savior and the  Viking defense showing vulnerability is what many seem to recollect, so we look to capitalize on the public's opinions.

Plays

Vikings (-3) at Eagles O/U 39

These defenses are awfully similar to each other in many aspects.
Vikings Total D: #2 Pass D: #4 Run D: #5
Eagles   Total D: #5 Pass D: #7 Run D: #3

How much trust will these coaches have in their quarterbacks facing such stout defenses? Some would automatically jump to conclusions that Keenum is trustable because of his late magic, but let's rewind to a critical point in this game that will have the Vikings coaching staff proceeding with caution. When up 17-0 and in field goal range, Keenum took a dreadful sack knocking them out kicking range. The next time he was called upon to make a play, he threw an ill-advised interception that allowed the Saints to get within one score. This sequence will be crucial this week in the conservative approach to the play calling when the Vikings move into field goal range. With such a low total, three points are golden. Look for the Vikings to settle for points, rather than gamble on Keenum's arm.

Running vs. the Eagles won't come easy as they only surrendered 86 rush yards to the Atlanta backfield on 20 carries. The Vikings are 23rd in the NFL gaining 3.9 per rush attempt, while the Eagles hold opponents to 3.8 Yards per carry. This will bode well for Philidelphia if they can force Minnesota into third and long situations. Although they had their moments, the Eagles held Atlanta to a total of 281 yards while averaging 4.8 yards per play.  The lack of success on the ground caused the Falcons to change the offensive game plan last week, and Minnesota will have to improvise also. However, the Vikings can cause matchup problems due to their flexibility. The Vikings offense has four different players that finished the season with 50+ receptions. With so many viable options at Keenum's disposal, I think this will be the difference in the final score. Look for the Vikings' play caller to spread the ball out using a short, intermediate pass game, in hopes of his receivers, tight ends and running backs to keep the chains moving. This game
will start off slow, and we will look to take advantage from the start.

Plays
Vikings/Eagles Under 39
Vikings/Eagles Under 1st quarter 7.5
Vikings/ Eagles Under 1st half 19
Eagles Team Total Under full game 17.5
Eagles Team Total Under first half  7.5
Vikings-3

23-13 Vikings

Jaguars at Patriots

Before this season, in over a seven-year span, the team with the No. 1 rated defense has been an underdog of over a touchdown one time (2015 Broncos). This season, we have seen this occurrence three times, all involving Jacksonville. Both times they faced off vs. the Steelers they were getting 7-8 points, and twice they earned the outright victory. This week, when they face off vs. the Patriots, they will break that trend for the third time.

No respect for the Jaguars coming off the franchise's biggest upset? That's precisely what the Jaguars are using as motivation leading into the game. Motivation, confidence, a little playoff experience; all things they will need to maximize their chances to stay in this game. When getting into this late in the season, fatigue is examined. Therefore, it has to be factored into the final number. What's Jacksonville's last month been like? After the blowout of the Texans, they have been involved in games with playoff implications the rest of the way. Sunday will be their fouth road game is the last five weeks, something that might show on the field in the later stages of the game. Leonard Fournette has 46 carries in his last two games; how much of a load can he carry this week? Think back to a time when Bill Belichick played the Rams in the Super Bowl as a 14 point underdog. He took away the greatest show on turf, trumping Marshall Faulk, and the rest is history. The same will happen Sunday; New England will shut down Leanord Fournette, forcing Bortles to have to make plays.

What's New England been up to the last month? They haven't traveled since Christmas, all while being favored by double digits in all their contests. Three home games and a bye week for a team that prepares in training camp for 16-plus game seasons. This is routine for this squad, and this schedule is perfect for them. Do you think the Jaguars are prepared for a 19 week season? Tom Brady had 53 dropbacks last week with 0 sacks and 0 interceptions. How fresh is Brady this week? The key to this game will be to minimize the No.1  pass rush of the Jaguars. Jacksonville has 54 sacks on the season; interesting stat is that 48.5 of them come from the defensive line. The Jaguars can create pressure without having to rush linebackers leaving them extra help in coverage. How can you exploit this? In week 16, when they played the 49ers, the leading receiver for San Fransico was fullback Kyle Juszczyk. The 49ers running backs were heavily involved rushing for 128 combined yards and averaging over 6 yards per catch. This same formula is what the Patriots will have to exercise with the stable of running backs they have tacked onto the best tight end in football. It will take Brady some pre-snap magic and who else serves as a better sorcerer than Belichick?  The prop for Blake Bortles to throw an interception sits at -200. If these odds hold true and it happens early, Jacksonville will be in trouble depending on Bortles to throw them back into the game. With the line dropping steadily now is the time to get the Patriots.

Patriots -7 (-130) buy .5 if 7.5 (-105)- expensive half point but important to have this key number in case of a backdoor cover. If the game is 14 points late, you won't be worried.

26-17 Patriots

Teasers 7 points
Patriots -.5/ Eagles +10

For any questions or comments reach me at @JerryBoKnowz




 

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Cristian Javier is in better shape this season. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.

Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).

Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.

But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.

In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.

Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.

The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.

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