One team had to make a game-saving defensive stand, the other gets a miraculous touchdown, and so here they stand — the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings are at the doorstep of representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.
These two teams mirror each other so much. Both are guided by quarterbacks who were backups on their depth charts when this long journey began. Both have defenses that can clamp down on opposing offenses. Both with identical records. And both have never won a Super Bowl (Vikings 0-4, Eagles 0-2).
For Nick Foles, it's imperative that he stays within himself. Stick to the short, high-percentage passing game and hopefully get some much needed help from the run game.
Against the Falcons, the Eagles had 49 yards rushing in the opening quarter but only 47 the rest of the game against Atlanta's ninth-ranked run defense.
Minnesota's defense is ranked No. 1 overall, No. 2 against the run, No. 2 against the pass and No. 1 in points allowed.
The Eagles' defensive front has to get to Vikings QB Case Keenum before he can find Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Both are excellent route runners with exceptional hands. What a matchup up this is. Pat Shurmur's offense against Jim Schwartz's defense.
I've gone back and forth all week on who will win this game in what could be your basic backyard brawl. So what I came up with is this: In the final seconds of the game, the Eagles will be down one point when Jake Elliott gets the call and nails a 50-yarder as time expires. Eagles win 23-21 and dance their way to the Super Bowl.
Jaguars at Patriots (Sunday, 3:05 p.m. on CBS)
Who would have thought Jacksonville would be playing for the AFC Championship, except maybe the Jaguars? There's no question Jacksonville has a top-notch defense but their offense is hard to figure out. In their first-round playoff game at home against Buffalo, the Jags barely scored 10 points and quarterback Blake Bortles was 12 of 23 for 87 yards with a TD.
The following week, the Jaguars go on the road and put up 45 points in Pittsburgh with Bortles throwing for 214 yards with a TD. Look for Jacksonville to lean on its freight train of a running back, Leonard Fournette, who ran for 109 yards against the Steelers and scored three rushing TDs.
Tom Brady is 40 years old but he is still the G.O.A.T. until further notice. Brady lit up Tennessee's defense last week for 337 yards and 3 touchdowns.
It will be interesting to see how the Jags try to neutralize Rob Gronkowski. Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey has made the bold prediction that Jacksonville is going to the Super Bowl. The Jaguars' defense has the capability to make it a long, miserable day for Brady and Co.
But Brady and his crew have playoff experience on their side and Bill Belichick is the ultimate big-game coach. Unfortunately, the evil empire that is New England will be heading to another Super Bowl.
Patriots 27, Jaguars 24