Red’s NFL Picks – The Championship

Last week – Red was 0-2 in the Conference Championship games.  Bleech!

The Jaguars had a real chance to off the Patriots but fell into the trap of not pressuring Brady with the game on the line.  Here’s the deal, if you don’t pressure him, he’s going to beat you.  If you do pressure him, he’s only probably going to beat you.  Not a tough choice in Red’s humble opinion.  The game came down to that and the Jags coaching staff blinked.

The Vikings – Eagles game was simpler.  In the matchup of two Texas quarterbacks, Case Keenum played like the Case Keenum of old – a creaky, unsure, seat of the pants, turnover machine Case Keenum.  Meanwhile, Nick Foles played like the Nick Foles of old – the can do no wrong best 2/3rd of a season of almost any quarterback in NFL history Nick Foles.  That was the game. The Superb Owl host jinx didn’t help either.

Your NFL Championship Game Pick of the Week –  Patriots over Eagles. 

The Eagles Last Championship – The Eagles last won the NFL Championship in 1960 at muddy Franklin Field with a 17-13 win over the Packers.  The game was Vince Lombardi’s only playoff loss (9-1).  Led by the Dutchman, Norm Van Brocklin, the Eagles only secured a victory when Chuck Bednarik stopped Packer’s fullback Jim Taylor at the 10 yard line after a reception from Bart Starr.  If the Packers had scored Taylor would likely have been the MVP of the game.  It would be 18 years before the Eagles returned to the playoffs losing to the Falcons in 1978.  Since then, the Eagles have been rather regular NFL playoff participants with only one major dry spell between the 1981 and 1988 seasons.  But real success has been elusive.  They have lost two Championship games – to the Raiders after the 1979 season (perhaps the best Eagles team since 1960) and to the Patriots after the 2004 season.  That was a close 24-21 loss for the Eagles.  McNabb’s 3 interceptions and the collapse of the Eagles rushing attack sealed the deal for the Pats.

The Patriots Last Championship – The Patriots last won the NFL Championship last season in the second biggest comeback in NFL playoff history (Oilers fans still remember the biggest).  And as for the rest of the story – does anyone really need to read about it here?

The Eagles Story – If Carson Wentz were still under center, Red would have no problem picking the Eagles.   Well, maybe a little problem.  There is certainly an argument that the Eagles feasted on a weak regular season schedule.  By Red’s hallmark (Quality Wins – meaning wins over Playoff teams and teams with winning records), the Eagles have four with wins over the Chargers (9-7 missed playoffs), Panthers (11-5 playoffs) and Rams (11-5 playoffs) and Cowboys (9-7 missed playoffs).  That is not bad by any means – even though Red discounts the win over the Cowboys because the only reason that team finished with a winning record was because of their 6-0 win in Week 17 over the Eagles who fielded a team largely made up of high school all-stars.  Throw in two impressive playoff wins over the redoubtable Falcons and the insurgent Vikings and its a pretty damn good season for the Eagles.  The only chance the Eagles have is to establish their running game early and put together some solid 5-7 minute scoring drives to keep Brady off the field and tire out the Pats defense.  If Foles has to throw 30 or fewer times and the defense sacks Brady 4 times and keeps the pressure up through the 4th quarter, there is a possibility that the Eagles could pull out a close one.  But Red doesn’t like those chances.  Alternatively, maybe the worst thing the Eagles could do would be to come out and rack up a sizable lead.  That seems to not work at all against the Pats.  Maybe they need to be behind by 10 going into the 4th quarter and then . . . oh, forget it!  In the unlikely event the Eagles win it will be on the last play of the game.

The Patriots 2017 Story –  The Patriots had six Quality Wins (Saints, Chargers, Falcons, Bills (2) and Stealers).  That is an impressive total for any team and just your average season for the Pats.  Home losses to the Chiefs and Panthers were unexpected but not terribly surprising.  The only real blip on the schedule was the late season loss to the Dolphins.   The hallmark of this season was the consistency of the Patriots offense.  They scored 30+ points seven times and only scored less than 20 once in a 19-14 win on the road against the sad-sack Buccaneers.  Odds are the Eagles are going to have to score at least 30 to have a chance. Given the Pats defense that is not likely.  After a shaky start, the Pats surrendered more than 20 points only twice after the first 4 games – in the loss to the Dolphins and in beating the Stealers on the road.  They kept the opposition in single digits three times.  On the other side of the ball with Tom Brady at the helm, confidence is always high on the Patriots sideline.  Having your legacy already fixed gives you some leeway in a game like this.  If Brady has a terrible game – it will not alter the perception of him at all.  It will make a lot of folks ridiculously happy but it will not change the historical perspective on Brady.  The only question here is what relatively unknown player will step up and have the game of his career in the championship game.  It happens every time the Pats win.  Picking that player is beyond Red’s prognostic abilities.

Suffice it to say, that after Red has scarfed down a half dozen of his Superb Ribs and a heap of potato salad and coleslaw, he will settle in for the inevitable second half where the Pats either put it away or mount another annoying yet incredible come from behind win.

New England 35 Philadelphia 27.   See you next season.

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