Super Bowl 2018: Predictions and Latest Odds Ahead of Conference Championships

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 15, 2018

Stefon Diggs celebrates after scoring the game-winning touchdown against the Saints.
Stefon Diggs celebrates after scoring the game-winning touchdown against the Saints.Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

The Minnesota Vikings are on cloud nine after a remarkable finish that earned them a spot in the NFC Championship Game.

The Vikings had an excellent regular season, winning the NFC North and securing the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. But the miraculous finish in their divisional-round victory over the New Orleans Saints Sunday will be difficult to top.

But not impossible.

If the Vikings can beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the championship game, they will contest Super Bowl LII in their U.S. Bank Stadium February 4. If they win that game, they would be Super Bowl champions for the first time in their history.

The fact the Vikings are still alive is hard to believe. They were trailing the Saints 24-23 with 10 seconds remaining and the ball on their own 39 with no timeouts remaining.

On a 3rd-and-10 play, quarterback Case Keenum was hoping to throw a pass toward the sidelines that wideout Stefon Diggs could catch and then step out of bounds to set up a game-winning field-goal attempt.

Diggs made the catch, but he never made it out of bounds. That's because Saints defensive back Marcus Williams missed the tackle. Diggs was thus able to race down the sidelines and into the end zone.

"I was waiting for someone to come hit me," Diggs said, per Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com. "Seeing that nobody touched me, I lost [my] footing a little bit. My hand never let me down. Rest is history."

Minnesota secured a 29-24 victory and eliminated New Orleans.

The Vikings were then installed as 3.5-point favorites over the Philadelphia Eagles, according to OddsShark

         

Conference Championships

Game: Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots

Date: January 21 at 3:05 p.m. ET

TV: CBS

Spread: Patriots -9.5

          

Game: Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles

Date: January 21 at 6:40 p.m. ET

TV: Fox

Spread: Vikings -3.5

           

The Eagles upset the Atlanta Falcons 15-10 Saturday, and quarterback Nick Foles gained some redemption after performing poorly in Philadelphia's final two regular-season games.

While the Eagles have home-field advantage, the Vikings have the higher-functioning offense and the top-ranked defense in the league.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski should have a big impact in the AFC title game.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski should have a big impact in the AFC title game.Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The New England Patriots will host the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC title game, and that's something of a shocker to most NFL observers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were heavy favorites over the Jaguars, largely due to the presence of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le'Veon Bell and wideout Antonio Brown.

However, the Jaguars raced out to a 28-7 lead and managed to rebuff Pittsburgh's comeback attempts to secure a surprising 45-42 victory.

That win means the Jaguars will travel to Foxborough, Massachusetts, Sunday to play the New England Patriots in the AFC title game.

Despite Jacksonville's impressive performance in Pittsburgh, the Jaguars are 9.5-point underdogs against the Patriots.

New England rolled over the Tennessee Titans 35-14 in Saturday's divisional-round game. The Titans scored the first touchdown of the game, but Tom Brady triggered New England's offense with three touchdown passes.

The Patriots have a slew of talented players such as Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and Brandin Cooks and are preparing to play in their seventh consecutive AFC title game. New England is also hoping to get back to the Super Bowl for the second year in a row and the third time in the past four years.

The Jaguars have the second-ranked defense in the league and a tremendous pass rush led by Calais Campbell (14.5 sacks) and Yannick Ngakoue (12.0 sacks). That unit will have to be at its best if Jacksonville is going to stop the Patriots on their home field.

                

Predictions

The Jags came through with a huge upset of a talented Steelers team in the divisional round, and they are one game away from their first Super Bowl appearance. However, beating New England on its home field appears to be out of their reach.

In addition to the talent disparity, the big problem will occur on the sidelines. It's difficult to picture Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone matching wits with outwitting Bill Belichick and coming out on top.

Look for the Patriots to win this game by double digits.

The Eagles have the home-field advantage, but the Vikings have a more in-form offense and the best defense in the league.

That should be enough to get Minnesota past Philadelphia and to its first title game since Super Bowl XI in January 1977. The Vikings dropped a 32-14 decision to the Oakland Raiders back then, and that was their fourth loss in the big game.

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