NFL Championship Sunday is one of the more fun sports days on the calendar. Today’s games are no exception; the Patriots host the Jaguars at 3 ET on CBS, while the nightcap on FOX featuring the Vikings visiting the Eagles.
There are plenty of storylines for both games, including the Tom Brady hand injury that’s been the talk of the week, probably because so many people hoped he’d be hurt after touting all of his injury-avoidance bullshit and forcing his talented backup off the team. Brady’s going to play, though, obviously.
#Patriots QB Tom Brady, who will play today vs. the #Jaguars, made half of his throws on Friday without a glove, sources say, despite several stitches. One source described him as "ripping it." In other words, Brady looked great and ready.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 21, 2018
Oh, wow, it’s almost like he was always going to play, and the Patriots were playing games again. The idea Brady would sit this game out was always ridiculous. He’d probably play if he had to throw left-handed. For all we know he’d be better at it, the ultimate Belichick long-con.)
No matter how entertaining today’s games are, though, the most important thing is finding the best possible Super Bowl matchup; there’s nothing worse than a letdown at the end of the season. Over the last four years we’ve alternated between good and forgettable, though both of the good games ended with the Patriots winning, which, well, kind of defeats the purpose of an entertaining game, for the vast majority of neutral fans out there.
So which game should you hope to be watching two weeks from today? Let’s look at the games.
Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots
Honestly, this might be all you need to see:
— 7⃣ Leonard Fournette (@_fournette) January 20, 2018
The Jaguars getting this far is almost more an indictment of the rest of the AFC than it is anything else; few teams with Blake Bortles at quarterback can hope to roll through the postseason. Their defense, though, is more than legit; the best parallel might be the Rex Grossman Bears that reached the Super Bowl. The Jags defense isn’t quite at that level, though, and their chances of getting through the Patriots today seem limited.
But if they’re in the Super Bowl next week, that’s a good thing, because while the chance to see the Patriots lose a Super Bowl is sometimes a risk worth taking, seeing them win their third in four years (for the second time) would be excruciating, and therefore not worth it. The Jaguars are the right call here, because holy shit, the Jaguars in the Super Bowl! Surprises are fun.
Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles
Okay, let’s watch it again:
— NFL (@NFL) January 15, 2018
I still can’t believe that happened. Here’s my favorite angle, with the crowd turning it up to 11 once they realize what’s happening:
That’s one of the most fun plays in recent memory, the kind of moment that keeps neutral fans tuning in, and that keeps diehard fans hopeful that they’ll one day get to experience similar elation. The Vikings now face the Eagles in Philadelphia, a game that would have been way more entertaining had Carson Wentz survived the regular season healthy. Instead we get Nick Foles, who isn’t bad, against Case Keenum, who’s actually maybe kind of good?
Regardless of how this one shakes out, though, we’re at least getting one of the two best teams in the NFC in the Super Bowl. If the Eagles manage it, it’s a nice story for Philadelphia, which has only been to two Super Bowls in their existence, losing in 1980 and 2004. The Vikings, though, haven’t been to the Super Bowl since 1976, and they’ve also never won one. If Jacksonville wins, we’ll be guaranteed a first-time Super Bowl winner, and that’s fantastic.
The Vikings, though, would add another first; they’d be the first team to play at their home stadium in a Super Bowl. That’s a fascinating element of the equation, and it could perhaps help cut into the Super Bowl’s tendency to be dominated by the c-suite of client trips and non-fans, giving it the kind of atmosphere we don’t normally get to see. That, combined with the further legitimization of the Diggs touchdown as a seminal NFL playoff moment, gives the Vikings the edge.
So, there we have it: we should hope for Jags/Vikings in the Super Bowl.
Which means the Patriots and the Eagles are definitely winning.