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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Not my job: Texans no match for the Ravens

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Texans fell to the Ravens 33-16 in a game they had a shot at winning. Most of you reading this will probably think I'm crazy for saying that. I assure you, I meant what I said. One of the reasons they didn't was because Bill O'Brien made a few questionable decisions that cost this team.

The first was the 4th & 1 decision. Deciding to go for it was bad enough. They were down 3-0 near the end of the first quarter with the ball on their own 34-yard line. This is not a situation that calls for a gamble or statement play. The play call itself was okay I guess: a play action bootleg with two short options. It was read and played perfectly by the Ravens defense. Deshaun Watson had nowhere to go with the ball and had to throw it at Darren Fells' back before getting sacked. That led to a quick Ravens touchdown and an early 10-0 deficit. I seriously think he has PTSD after that playoff loss to the Chiefs when it comes to fourth down calls. Bumbling Bill strikes again!

When they got the ball back, they scored a touchdown thanks to more play action passes and pre-snap motion. It was as if Bumbling Bill realized his offensive line was outmatched by the front seven they're opposing. Sure Watson is mobile and looks like a magician escaping sacks, but misdirection helps throw the defense off and keeps Watson from breaking into 177,000,000 pieces. Oh, and the quick reads were a good idea as well. Too bad Bumbling Bill went away from that and opted for longer developing routes. Or will he blame it on Timid Tim Kelly? Or was Waiting Watson holding onto the ball too long? I blame all three.

Also, can we stop starting drives with the predictable run, run, pass combo please? First down should be play action rollout with Watson having the ability to choose to run if it's there. More run/pass/option plays need to be called as well. Incorporate more things that we saw when Watson was on his way to winning rookie of the year before his knee was sacrificed for the Astros.

Credit where it's due: the end of the first half to get a field goal with a minute and change left was good to see. Typically, these situations tend to make Bumbling Bill come out. I liked the quick slant to Cobb with no timeouts. They were able to spike the ball and get the field goal up.

The game was still within reach at 23-13 in the beginning of the fourth quarter. On a 4th & 1, they gave up a 30 yard touchdown run on a direct snap to Mark Ingram. I saw gaps on both sides of the defensive line pre-snap. Sure enough, Ingram got a lead block from the Ravens human plough of a fullback and that effectively put the nail in the coffin at 30-13. I know the tendency is to quarterback sneak or run up the middle, but don't leave gaps along the defensive line trying to stack the middle. First time defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver will take the L on this one.

Overall, I'll give O'Brien and his coaching staff a C- this game. Mistakes were made that could've cost them a legit shot at winning, but the Keke Coutee fumble return for a touchdown wasn't their fault. The play calling menu was brought to us this week by Craft Pita via the "What's Eric Eating" podcast. Tune in next week for another "Not my job!"

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