Super Bowl 2018: Date, Schedule and Predicting Teams for NFL Championship Game

David McCracken@crackemcFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2018

FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018, file photo,  Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) looks back as he runs down the sideline for the game-winning touchdown Saints late in the second half of an NFL divisional football playoff game against the New Orleans in Minneapolis. The Vikings defeated the Saints 29-24. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

It's safe to say the divisional round of the NFL playoffs didn't disappoint.

From a nail-biting Philadelphia Eagles victory to a shootout between to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars, the icing on the cake of the round was the Minnesota Vikings' victory over the New Orleans on the last play of the game.

If you haven't seen the miraculous last play of Sunday's NFC matchup, where have you been? But here's what happened, per the NFL's official Twitter:


.@STEFONDIGGS FOR THE WIN!!!!!!!!! #SKOL #NOvsMIN #NFLPlayoffs https://t.co/UAoNJ2NJ97

After a play like that, Case Keenum and Stefon Diggs won't have to pay for a drink in Minnesota for the rest of their lives. Even the wide receiver couldn't believe his fortune during the play. 

"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."

All in all, the AFC/NFC championship games are now set in stone. Here's a quick rundown of the conference championship weekend schedule with my Super Bowl matchup prediction:


Conference Championships

Sunday, January 21

AFC Championship Game

Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots: 3:05 p.m. ET, CBS, CBS All Access 

NFC Championship Game

Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles: 6:40 p.m. ET, Fox, Fox Sports Go


Super Bowl LII

Sunday, February 4

AFC champion vs. NFC champion at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, 6:30 p.m. ET (NBC, NBC Sports Live)


Super Bowl Prediction

New England Patriots vs. Minnesota Vikings

FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 13: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts during the AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Jaguars are the real deal, but their Cinderella story ends here.

Give credit where credit is due: The Jaguars went into a hostile environment in Pittsburgh and won an unexpected shootout against the Steelers, 45-42, in a game where Ben Roethlisberger threw for 469 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.

While Blake Bortles didn't set the world on fire against the Steelers (214 yards, one touchdown), he did enough to lead the Jaguars offense down the field with a lot of help from running back Leonard Fournette, who rushed for 2-9 yards and three scores.

While that formula might work against most teams, it will be difficult for the Jaguars to implement their game plan against a disciplined Patriots defense that held the Titans to 14 points on Saturday and held Titans running back Derrick Henry to 28 yards on 12 carries.

Without a consistent running game, the Jaguars will have to put the ball in Bortles hands, which is good news for the Patriots defense as they will be able to pick apart Jacksonville's offense with relative ease, giving Tom Brady good field position with regularity.

It won't be a close game in Foxborough on Sunday, as the Patriots advance to take on the NFC representative in the Super Bowl, the Vikings.

Things would be different if Carson Wentz was still playing. It's a storyline that is overused and is, frankly, an excuse for lazy analysis. But against a Vikings defense that can stand up to any offense in the league, the quarterback's absence will loom even larger than it did in the divisional round against the Atlanta Falcons.

Chris Szagola/Associated Press

Against the Falcons, the Eagles relied on their defense to hold Atlanta's high-powered offense intact, not allowing too many big plays downfield.

While Nick Foles wasn't bad for Philadelphia (23-of-30 passing, 246 yards), he didn't do much in terms of putting his team in scoring position, throwing for zero touchdowns while leading his team to just 15 points.

The Vikings have been a stout defensive unit all season, capped off with a strong performance against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday despite conceding 24 points at home.

The Vikings should have an easier time containing Philadelphia's offense, starting with their run game that saw Jay Ajayi lead the Eagles with 54 yards on 15 carries for an average of 3.6 yards per rush.

The Vikings and Patriots will both dominate their competition on Sunday and move on to battle for the Lombardi Trophy on February 4.