DANNY ONEIL

The Bitterman’s AFC/NFC Championship Guide

Jan 19, 2018, 10:30 AM
nfl playoffs, afc championship, jaguars, patriots...
The Jaguars will play in the AFC Championship for the first time since 1999. (AP)
(AP)

I hate greatness.

That was an accusation lobbed my way last week on the Twitters after I made the calm and reasoned assessment that the English language was insufficient to describe how utterly sick and tired I was of the New England Patriots.

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Yup. The Patriots are the one truly great team in American pro sports over the past 20 years, and I don’t want to watch them win anymore ever, which means that there is – in fact – a part of me that must hate greatness. If that sounds, bitter, man, well that’s just about right because this is The Official Bitterman’s Playoff Guide to championship weekend.

I get physically agitated watching the New England Patriots win. This is especially true when I know that they’re going to win. Like last week, against the poor overmatched Tennessee Titans, who were a playoff team only because this was a particularly bad year for AFC teams.

And there was Bill Belichick challenging a completed pass with 5 minutes left in a game that his team was already going to win. And he wasn’t just challenging the play. He was expressing bemused disgust with the fact that he had to physically throw the red flag to challenge the play in a game his team had well in hand. And then he was throwing the flag to himself on the sideline, reaching up and failing to catch it, and if he was enjoying any of this, well he kept that enjoyment concealed behind the Unfrozen Caveman visage of a man who appears to be perpetually constipated.

See. I hate greatness.

And now this guy’s team is the only one left in the playoffs that employs a quarterback whose career could even be described as above average. And Tom Brady isn’t just above average. He’s the best quarterback there has ever been.

Not only that, but this team with such a formidable horsepower advantage plays in what is perpetually the least competitive division in the NFL, and this season this Patriots team will have to win home games against the Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars to reach a second straight Super Bowl.

Ugh. I’ve spent the entire week trying to talk myself into the idea the Jacksonville Jaguars have more than a puncher’s chance of interrupting the Patriots’ parade back to the Super Bowl. I’ve embraced the confidence that Jacksonville is packing with a defense that is truly formidable all the while trying to avoid direct eye contact with the fact that the Jaguars are asking quarterback Blake Bortles to hold up to playoff pressure – on the road – for a second consecutive week.

Oh yeah. And the game is in New England, and not only does Bortles play in Florida, but he played his college football in Florida, which only adds to the resentment that I’m already feeling about the Patriots’ imminence procession to the Super Bowl. Deep breaths here. This Sunday is going to sting.

Jaguars at Patriots, Sunday, noon

I love the Jaguars defense. I love the way they play. I love the way they talk. I love the fact that when the Patriots (LOOK UP POSITION) Adam Butler proclaimed that cornerback Jalen Ramsey better be able to back up all his talk about winning the Super Bowl, Ramsey responded on Twitter, “WHO!???” That’s right, Jalen. Who!??? I’m not even going to look up Adam Butler’s position like I was supposed to. And I actually think the Jags’ defense matches up pretty well against Patriots with Jacksonville’s willingness to play press coverage and the Patriots challenges against man-to-man coverage. I’m more worried about how Bortles will hold up, though, against the pressure to not be horrible. He was able to do it last week in Pittsburgh, but anybody can have one not-bad day. Being not-bad in consecutive playoff games on the road is a little more than Bortles is capable of, I’m afraid.

Pick: Patriots 26, Jaguars 13

Vikings at Eagles, Sunday, 3:40 p.m.

Case Keenum or Nick Foles? One of these men will be starting in the Super Bowl. Who’s it going to be? The Vikings have the better defense, but the Eagles have the better run game, and they’re at home, which may turn out to be the biggest difference in this game.

Pick: Eagles 20, Vikings 16

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The Bitterman’s AFC/NFC Championship Guide