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NFL Playoffs: AFC, NFC Championship weekend picks

“Tomato-less” Tom versus “LeBlake” Bortles, and the Minnesota Miracle takes its show on the road to Philadelphia.

New England Patriots Practice Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

It’s going to be hard damn near impossible for Sunday’s slate of games to eclipse just how great the Divisional Round was last week. The Jaguars’ moxie on the road against the Steelers, the rare defensive battle that is actually a treat to watch happened in Philadelphia-Atlanta, and the primetime matchup between the Saints and the Vikings will be a staple of any highlight reel until the end of all highlight reels.

The Patriots made short work of a hapless Titans team that was dying for a reason to part ways with their head coach, but since that game wrapped up, the buzz around league is all about the throwing hand of Tom Brady. Requiring four stitches, Brady wore two red gloves to his press conference on Friday, but according to various reports, it shouldn’t have an effect on him throwing the ball—the Jaguars defense, on the other hand...

Let’s get to the picks.

PATRIOTS -7.5 over Jaguars

For crying out loud, it’s four stitches. This isn’t like when Matthew Stafford’s hand was a mangled mess of torn ligaments, or even anything close to that. Brady will be Brady, but the Jaguars defense is going to do everything they can to make him less like the guy we’re all accustom to seeing.

Good luck, Jacksonville. The only team to go into Foxborough at Gillette Stadium and beat a Bill Belichick-led Patriots in a Conference Championship game? The 2012 Baltimore Ravens. Joe Flacco circa 2012 aka Johnny Storm aka The Human Freakin’ Torch ain’t walking through that door. Patriots cover and move on to Minnesota, 20-7.

EAGLES +3 over Vikings

First of all, I don’t buy the notion of a hangover from the Minneapolis Miracle last week resulting in the Vikings demise this week. But what I do buy is the Eagles defense being the best defense the Vikings have yet to face. Speaking of face, let’s talk about Case Keenum’s face, because they’ll be an Eagles defender in it all day long on Sunday.

Last week against the Saints, Keenum posted a quarterback rating of 5.1 when under pressure, the worst mark of any quarterback who played in the Divisional Round. The Eagles applied the pressure to opposing quarterbacks more than any other team this season.

The Eagles offense does just enough to come away with a victory, squeaking out a 10-6 win, and a chance to lose to the Patriots in the Super Bowl... again.