The Patriots are in the AFC championship for an amazing seventh straight year. They’ve split those six games, but they clearly understand what it takes to win at this level. Plus, they’re almost unbeatable in home playoff games — Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are 16-3 in the postseason at home. And can you really see Bortles outplaying Brady?
Zimmer predicts the team that runs the ball better and wins the turnover battle will win. Turnovers always are critical, but I think both teams will struggle to run, so the team that plays better pass defense and has the superior quarterbacking will prevail. I like the Minnesota defense a little more and Keenum’s poise and clutch play over Foles, who has not led the Eagles to 20 points or more in the last three games.
The case against: Owner Jim Irsay surprised just about everyone a few years ago when he retained both Pagano as his coach and Ryan Grigson as his general manager. That was a mistake. The Colts have gone from Super Bowl contender to absolute pretender, and Luck is facing an uncertain future. Irsay righted his wrong at GM by firing Grigson after last season and replacing him with Chris Ballard. Pagano has had plenty of chances and it’s time for Ballard to have an opportunity to hire his coach.
Per the Elias Sports Bureau and ProFootballReference.com, five other teams since 1991 started second-stringers in the playoffs rather than quarterbacks who had won at least 10 games during the regular season a la Wentz. All five lost.
“Really, there are a lot of different little things that you work on. But I really think that he’s confident and we’re confident in him. Our offense has come along pretty well now.”
Buttressed by a strong defensive showing and sound special-teams play against the Falcons, the offensive output was not only sufficient enough to put Philadelphia in its first NFC title game since the 2008 season; it also has raised hope that Foles might be this generation’s version of Jeff Hostetler, the backup who guided the 1990 New York Giants to a Lombardi Trophy after stepping in for an injured Phil Simms.