Play action or pass: Defense wins Championship round

Ignore the miracle. The Vikings defense is the key.

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.


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.

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

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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Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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