Sunday's conference championship games feature a team that has won five Super Bowls and three teams that have never won it all.
The heavily favored New England Patriots, who won last year's Super Bowl and five of the last 16, will take on the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game. That game will be followed by the host Philadelphia Eagles vs. Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game.
Who's headed to Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis? Here are a pair of predictions from the ABC15 sports team.
AFC Championship Game:
ABC15 sports anchor Jason Snavely
At this point, you’d be crazy to bet against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at Gillette Stadium in January, regardless of the opponent. Their 2018 opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars, haven’t appeared in an AFC Championship game since 1999. Blake Bortles was 6 years old.
On Sunday, Bortles and the Jags face their biggest challenge of the season on the biggest stage they’ve played on in nearly two decades. Put simply, I don’t like their chances. Bortles has shown he can make plays with his legs, but he’s just too inconsistent in the passing game to think he can lead Jacksonville past the postseason juggernaut that is the New England Patriots.
Patriots 21, Jaguars 10
ABC15.com sportswriter Shane Dale
I've been looking for excuses to pick the Jaguars in this game, and Tom Brady's injury works well enough. Brady and the Pats are being typically secretive about the severity of the injury, which reportedly required stitches in his throwing hand. The Jaguars lead the NFL in passing yards and passer rating allowed; combine that with a less-than-100-percent Brady (or backup QB Brian Hoyer), and New England could have a difficult time putting up points Sunday.
On the other side of the ball, Jaguars star rookie running back Leonard Fournette has to be excited about facing a Patriots defense that's second-worst in the NFL in yards allowed per carry. As long as quarterback Blake Bortles can avoid making a major mistake -- a feat he has accomplished in each of the Jaguars' first two playoff games -- I like Jacksonville to pull the upset.
Jaguars 24, Patriots 17
NFC Championship Game
This one should be fun to watch. Strange to say, considering it’ll be a quarterback matchup of Case Keenum vs. Nick Foles, but this will easily be the most entertaining game of Championship Weekend.
If Carson Wentz was taking the snaps for the Eagles on Sunday, I’d say Philadelphia would have the edge. Instead, he’ll be watching from the sideline. That said, the breakdown for this matchup is simple. Both teams have impressive defenses. The Vikings’ defense is slightly better. Both teams have pretty good offenses. The Vikings’ offense is slightly better. Using this highly intricate method to predict this year’s AFC champion, Minnesota will be slightly better on Sunday.
Vikings 21, Eagles 17
Most experts counted out the Eagles when Carson Wentz went down with a season-ending injury, but Philly surprised those experts by holding off the defending NFC champion Falcons last weekend. The Eagles face the same level of skepticism Sunday, as most experts believe the Vikings are destined to return to the Super Bowl for the first time in 41 years.
I picked the Eagles last week, but I'm betting against them this time, for three reasons: 1. The Vikings are just a little better than the Eagles in just about every defensive statistical category. 2. Minnesota held the Saints' dynamic running back duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara to 68 yards on 21 carries last weekend, which doesn't bold well for Jay Ajayi and the Eagles' rushing offense. 3. Case Keenum is simply a better QB than Nick Foles.
This game will feature a lot of defense, but look for Minnesota's playmakers -- including last weekend's hero, Stefon Diggs -- to do enough to allow the Vikings to become the first-ever NFL team to play the Super Bowl in its home stadium.