NFL Weekly Predictions: Conf. Championships

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Jacksonville @ New England (-9½)

The Patriots hammered the Titans, 35-14, to advance to their seventh-straight AFC championship game. Tom Brady passed for 337 yards and 3 touchdowns, and the Patriots' defense sacked Marcus Mariota 8 times.

"We dominated on both sides of the ball," Brady said. "The officials, on the other hand, dominated on only one side of the ball. The Titans were penalized 10 times, while we only had 4 penalties. We appreciate the officials keeping some of those flags in their pockets. It appears the 'Tuck Rule' is alive and well in Foxboro.

"And speaking of 'home-field advantage,' we'd like to welcome the Jaguars to Gillette Stadium. But if they think they can come into this stadium and beat this team, then they'll certainly be flagged for 'tripping.' I know the Jags are young and brash, and they like to talk. But this 40-year-old man is hard of hearing, so you just might hear me say the word 'repeat.'

"Whatever happens, this team will have some new faces next season. Matt Patricia has accepted the head coaching job for the Lions. I just wonder if he's accepted his fate. And Josh McDaniels is the new head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. If there's a 'prescription for success,' Colts owner Jim Irsay must think it's Josh as his head coach."

The Jaguars had their way with the Pittsburgh defense, rushing for 164 yards and 4 touchdowns in a 45-42 win over the Steelers at Heinz Field. The Jags built a 28-7 lead and held on to reach the franchise's second conference title game.

"We pulled back the 'curtain' on the Steelers defense," Leonard Fournette said, "and ran right through it, several times. Their hopes of that rematch with the Patriots were dashed, as were Ben Roethlisberger's hope of becoming the first quarterback in history to play in the AFC Championship after saying 'Dilly dilly!' in a regular-season game.

"The Steelers were definitely overconfident. They thought they were going to waltz into the AFC Championship Game. Well, they didn't get the job done. Just ask Jesse James, and he'll tell you they failed to 'complete the process.'

"As for the AFC championship, I guess the Steelers will be sitting this one out. And I suppose Le'Veon Bell can start his sit out right now if he really wants to. He certainly has the experience. Heck, he seems to enjoy 'sitting out' a game as much as he does 'sitting in' a car with LeGarrette Blount. And that car may be rolling down the street, and Le'Veon may be smoking, but his season just came to an 'end-o.'

"We know the Patriots present our toughest challenge yet. Their success is historic. They've won Super Bowls with defense. They've won Super Bowls with offense. They are experts at finding an opponent's weakness and exploiting it. If they find an opening, they'll take it, especially if it's through a gate."

Just prior to kickoff, Jalen Ramsey guarantees a win, in the opening coin toss. He's proven right, as Jacksonville wins the toss and defer. On the Patriots first play from scrimmage, Ramsey gets up in Rob Gronkowski's face and utters a stream of profanity at the New England tight end. Gronk good-naturedly laughs off the talk, tells Ramsey he should have his mouth washed out with soap, and casually jams a Tide Pod into Ramsey's mouth.

If there's a weakness in the Jags defense, the Patriots will find it. And, if there's a weakness in the Jacksonville offense, it's still Blake Bortles. New England initially attacks the Jags defense with the short passing game, which leads to some big gains to Brandin Cooks later. On defense, the Pats show Bortles things he's never seen, like five Super Bowl champion banners.

Patriots win, 24-13.

Minnesota @ Philadelphia (+3)

The Eagles beat the Falcons, 15-10, behind 3 field goals from Jake Elliott and a error-free game from Nick Foles. The Philly defense did its part, holding Atlanta scoreless in the second half and closing out the win with a goal-line stand.

"The Falcons had four cracks at the end zone," Doug Pederson said. "And 'four cracks' is how middle linebacker Jordan Hicks describes his view of our front four. And they were really the key to our victory. They pressured Matt Ryan all game long. And everybody knows that the Falcons don't operate very well under pressure. Just like in last year's Super Bowl, they had the lead in the third quarter. Then their offense went into a hole. Or maybe it went into a cave, because they 'cave' under pressure.

"Nick did exactly what we asked him to. He didn't make any mistakes. I think the Vikings would agree, because they've given Nick the nickname 'No Mistaking,' as in there's 'No Mistaking Nick Foles for a Super Bowl quarterback.

"But we have confidence in Nick. We don't expect him to beat the Vikings by himself. It will take a total team effort, as well as a total effort of our supporters. The Vikes may have a legend of Norse mythology on their side. But Thor be damned; we have a legend of Philadelphia cuisine backing us up. His name is 'Chip Phillysteak.'

"Once again, we're the underdogs. That's why you've seen us wearing dog masks. Those mask have become our inspiration to do great things and achieve beyond everyone's expectations. As such, our mantra has become 'Disguise the limit.'"

The Vikings are headed to the NFC Championship Game at Philadelphia, thanks to Case Keenum's miraculous 61-yard touchdown pass to Stephon Diggs on the last play of the game that gave Minnesota a 29-24 win over the Saints.

"It's like Al Michaels once famously said," Mike Zimmer said, 'Why on Earth is Dennis Miller in this booth with me?' Wait, I believe that's the wrong quote. Michaels said, 'Do you believe in miracles? Yes!' And Stephon's catch was indeed a miracle. And it left the Saints hope for a Super Bowl 'on ice.' It's like the hand of God grabbed the hammer of the Gods and went to work on the Saints defensive backfield. The result was 'Thor-oughly amazing.'

"If you ask the Saints, they'll tell you Marcus Williams' tackling ability does not cut the mustard. But it does cut the mayonnaise, because he just made the 'Miracle Whiff.' In a matter of mere seconds, the Saints went from saying 'who dat?' to saying 'what da?'

"I hear Aaron Rodgers and Danica Patrick are getting pretty serious. Aaron said if they do, in fact, ever marry, he insists the date will be 3-19. You heard right. That's '3-19,' at 'The Line of Scrimmage.' That's a walk-in wedding chapel in Omaha. Omaha! And invitations won't be sent by mail. At the suggestion of Brett Favre, they'll be sent by text."

The Eagles captains don dog masks for the opening coin toss, once again playing up their underdog status. And just when you thought the "underdog" gimmick was overplayed, out trots Michael Vick leading a pit bull on a leash. And to hammer the message home, legendary linebacker of hated rival the Giants, Lawrence Taylor, makes his way to midfield, where he urges the Eagles to go out there "like a bunch of crazed dogs." Philly takes it to heart.

The Eagles pass rush terrorizes Keenum, sacking him 4 times and forcing 2 turnovers. Nelson Agholor hauls in a long pass from Foles late to set up the winning score.

Philadelphia wins, 17-16.

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