Analyzing NFL’s final four and forecasting the Super Bowl matchup

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) plays in an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

As we wait for Jimmy Garoppolo to sign an extension with the 49ers and for the Scouting Combine to start and for free agency to begin, let’s turn our attention to Sunday’s conference championship games.

Here’s what to watch for in each one.

Disclaimer: I’m not taking Tom Brady’s thumb injury seriously. The quarterback allegedly hurt it in practice on Wednesday and almost certainly will play on Sunday. No one knows if the injury is fact or fiction. The Patriots could be playing mind games with their opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Head coach Bill Belichick has played so many mind games throughout the years. You simply cannot trust his injury reports or what he says.

Click here to read the rest of my column.

This article has 94 Comments

  1. Jags have a chance if they can follow Coughlins plan against NE by getting home with 4 and staying balanced on offense.

    Think the Philly D, at home is too much for Minnesota to overcome. Would be great to see the Vikings at home in the Super Bowl though.

    1. Seems you have changed your view about the Jags since the time you said that they would be out of the playoffs in the wildcard or divisional rounds ;)
      I do not see any way Brady and Bellichick will be Bortled at home even if Brady has to play with an injured hand.
      Tough for me to imagine a Super Bowl at this point other than Pats-Vikes.

  2. Good Article, Grant and the topic of conversation at 4949 Centennial.

    The NFL’s annual underclassman list shows added draft talent to an already solid draft position for the 49ers.

    A few reasons for positivity and the 49ers making the wild card if not a 1st Rd. bye in 2018:

    1. Last season, at 0-9, folks were envious of the LA Rams head coach, suggesting Shanny was over his head w/o an OC. I stated that the front office had little time to plan their offseason program, find talent, and to judge them on 2018 when the 49er front office has a full offseason to work with.

    2. 49ers found their ‘franchise QB’ in year 1 ! Anyone want to bet against Shanny finding something easier—–A go to wide receiver in year 2 ?

    3. The draft is loaded with O-Linemen. For example, I mentioned a small school OT who is labeled a franchise left tackle in the previous article–Chukwuma Okorafor, West Michigan .
    The undrclassman declarations augment the 49ers draft position—they can wait for the best offer to trade down, trade up or, draft their next leo,Bradley Chubb, Georgia if he falls. Pass rusher, over an ND guard.
    A nice article about the LEO (Pass Rusher) being the NFL’s 2nd most important pos. is listed below.

    4. Trade down possibilities are over 90% due to underclassman declarations. One guard does not effect the team as much as a LEO or or 3 more talented players. If the house in Vegas gave anyone a 3-1 advantage on a bet only the fool turns it down.

    In last years draft, that fool proved to be the Chicago Bears.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fancy-stats/wp/2017/08/01/the-value-of-a-sack-and-why-pass-rusher-is-the-nfls-second-most-important-position/?utm_term=.58b41576fd71

    1. *And most on this site know, but it bears repeating. 4 QB’s are picked to go in the top 10 in 2018. Another factor pushing talent toward the 49ers or allowing them the luxury of trading down a few spots.

          1. Hopefully, but the Niners are still so thin at so many positions that a couple of injuries could sink the season. A risk that needs to be acknowledged.

  3. Sooner or later that clock is going to strike midnight and the Gilded Coach will be turning into a pumpkin. I’m guessing sometime tomorrow unless Brady’s hand is as bad as some are saying (it required stitches). And if that’s true… It’ll be interesting because in the second-half of the season, the Patriots had the better defense, not the Jags.

    Oh, and FWIW, I’d pay real money to see the Hoyer-Bortles Bowl.

    1. Brady’s case of ‘football age’ and an arthritic throwing hand isn’t fooling anyone.

      Belichick just made Kraft the fool by demonstrating the NFL is a young man’s game–having team doctors write arthritis on the injury report is an embarassment and a ‘get even’ for the Garoppolo trade.

  4. “I’m not taking Tom Brady’s thumb injury seriously.”

    Hmm. Remember Schilling’s bloody sock? Was it real? Was it paint or ketchup?

    Eagles Vs Vikings could go either way. Wentz is missing valuable playoff reps.

    Good defenses travel well (Jaguars, Vikings). Brady has a built in excuse to lose (thumb). I mentioned last Sunday that Coughlin has the blueprint to beat the Pats (pressure from D-line).

    Does the league and NBC want a SB with Bortles Vs Keenum or Foles? The Jags have to stay composed if the refs get flag happy.

      1. Yeah, superstars getting superstar treatment is tinfoil territory. Have you ever seen a pitcher get a called third strike on a ball that was out of the strike zone? Someone like MJ going to the line after little or no contact? How about the home team getting a favorable call? Keep in mind that I said “if” the refs get flag happy.

      2. Even though folks that worked the nfl have said some games are rigged for better ratings, you will always have those who ignore that to make themselves feel better. You’d have to be crazy to think this giant corporation isn’t pulling some strings for more money. You don’t need a tinfoil hat to know that!

  5. BB takes away Fournette Me Not, and forces Bortles to make plays. He’ll make a few through the air, and the majority on the ground. I felt Marrone was a great hire by the Jaguars. They’ll bite Tom’s hand with every sack. The smell of blood will linger, and I expect them to hunt down Brady. 27-24 Jaguars.

    Vikings will ground the Phillies run game, and force Foles to fly as high as the sun, on his way, like an Eagle. Instead, he’ll fly on broken wings. 20-17 Vikings.

    1. The Eagles were lucky to win last week. Foles threw multiple interceptable balls even though most of his passes didn’t travel past five years. And the Falcons had Sarkesian calling the plays. I’m not so sure he’ll get past the Vikings.

      OTOH, I kind of like Keenum’s chances. He’s got a bit of Jeff Garcia in him.

        1. They’re called dropped INTs, dumb ***. Just like INTs happen because other people mistakes, sometimes QBs get away with their mistakes. Which means there is no double standard just a very common and easy=to-understand observation that luck (good and bad) is part of football. And Foles got lucky the Falcons blew it when he made his mistakes.

          You, OTOH, are still a dumb *** who can’t even figure out the friggin’ cliches or understand some of the most basic concepts of football.

          1. “And Foles got lucky the Falcons blew it when he made his mistakes.”

            Kinda like how Garoppolo got lucky several times that opponents blew it when he made mistakes?

  6. Bortles had a good game against Steelers. Pit made a strong run , but Jags scored on the final 2 possessions. Jags D nearly lost that game. It was Bortles who secured the win.

    1. Yup. Saw that. Vrabel is the most unprepared and least deserving head coach hire since Jim Tomsula. I don’t have anything against the guy but he has done absolutely nothing to make me think he deserves to be a head coach. He took over Romeo Crennel’s defense and immediately made it very predictable. Its just laughable the Titans hired Vrabel over Wilks. They really should have gone out and secured a guy like Josh McDaniels or Pat Shurmur to help develop Marcus Mariota. The Titans have weapons on offense and Mariota is a very talented guy. Hiring Vrabel will impair Mariota’s development.

  7. Here is what I hope happens:
    Brady gets knocked out of the game. Hoyer throws multiple picks. Patriots lose as fans chant “We want Jimmy G back.”
    It would be wonderful.

  8. can you imagine the massive “I told you so” article that’ll emanate from Grant if the TB hand issue is true, and Hoyer gets the Pats past the Vikes in SB???

    1. There must have been some Pollyanna on here in September who predicted Hoyer in the Super Bowl! Remember how he was going to lead 9ers to 10-11 wins?
      : -)
      Opening Day who predicts Foles, Bortles, or Keenum in the CC Games?
      Nooooo-Body!

  9. I want the Vikings and Jaguars to win. I’m not intimately familiar with the four teams. My uninformed prediction is a Patriots vs Eagles Superbowl.

  10. Who has been the hottest team since we beat them , the jags. And for some reason Philly’s been seeing it come there way , so I’m going with the upsets . Hope that jags defense can get after Brady ,and deliver .

  11. bet ya there’s been substantive film study in the Pats qb room of JG & Kyle’s handiwork against jags D…
    especially if Hoyer must play, he could help translate KS’ game plan from that game…

  12. Yes!! Championship football! All day!! Place your bets, build the fire, break out the pliny, kick back and enjoy. Last week was tough as I was beaten like the red headed step child. Time to recover today!
    Last week: Ugh!

    PHI +3 vs ATL and the over (41) (WIN/LOSS)
    TENN +13 1/2 vs NE and the under (48) (LOSS/LOSS)
    PITT -7 vs JAX and the under (41 1/2) (LOSS/LOSS)
    NO +5 vs MINN and the over (46 1/2) (LOSS/WIN)

    7-9 Total Playoffs (-150) (16 x $75)

    The late touchdown by Tenn and the miracle in Minn killed me! Today will be better!

    Taking:

    NE -7 1/2 vs JAX and the over (46) NE 30 JAX 17 ($250 Total Wager) Weather cloudy and mild turning cold
    PHIL +3 vs MINN and the under (38 1/2) MINN 19 PHIL 17 ($250 Total Wager) Weather cloudy and mild

    Super Bowl: NE vs MINN

    Enjoy your day!! It’s gonna be great!

  13. I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary in Brady’s warm-up passes without a glove. I heard he might go with a fingerless glove.
    Kurt Warner was saying that he’ll watch as the game goes on because the hand may get knocked around if he takes some hits.
    Let loose the hounds!🎺

  14. Seems the patriots struggle the most against teams like Jacksonville. Ball controlled teams that can get to the Qb with only 4.
    I see the NE defense being the hero in this game. I think it will be close. Depends on what Jags team shows up. If it’s the team last week, NE is in trouble.

    Minn will be the first team to play and host the Super Bowl. Philly is god awful offensively now.

    Today is NE super bowl.

  15. Pats can’t stop Jag’s running game.
    Was the Niners run defense that good or were the Jag’s that unmotivated during the game?

  16. I know it is not over until it is over with the patriots……but Jags looking dominant…..is this the same jags that we beat the crap out of!!!!?

  17. Interesting story that they were pre season ‘practice partners. I’ll bet B.B. loved that! Of course he picked up valuable intel himself.

  18. I hate to give credit to a former Dallas Cowboy but Romo is great. He knows his sht and doesn’t talk too much like Collingsworth. Nice job!

    1. I know I’m in the minority here but Romo annoys the hell out of me. I can’t hardly stand to watch a game when he’s speaking. He’s constantly talking over Nantz and his analysis is just goofy. He definitely knows football but the constant gum flapping is a huge turnoff. I very much prefer Collingsworth over Romo.

  19. Well let’s put the conversation down about who the best QB of all time is. It’s not even a debate anymore. TB12 is the GOAT!

  20. End of the day it’s still a QB league. Thank God we have Jimmy G!! It’s been too long dealing with mediocre QB’s!! Speaking of mediocre, what’s Kaep doing these days? Lol!

    1. Garoppolo attacked the Jags defense with quick inside and underneath throws. The very thing Brady likes to do.

      The Jags pass rush faded in the 4th quarter, just like the Falcon’s defense did in the Superbowl. Once that happens Brady will do as he pleases.

      1. The Jags pass rush faded in the 4th quarter, just like the Falcon’s defense did in the Superbowl.

        Yep, that’s why rotation is so important, along with possessing the ball. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the Titans do not rotate their defensive lineman….

    1. Absolutely? Any favorites in draft or free agency? I like Arden Key, but I worry about off field stuff and injuries.

        1. Just watched Dvenport’s highlights. He’s huge. Want to see how he does in Senior Bowl vs top competition. Curious to see what his height and weight are at combine.

          Pass rushers seem to be the most common positions that seem to “leap up drafts boards.” (doesn’t mean he wasn’t already high on real team draft boards). Wonder when he will be drafted?

          I’m liking the talent in the top ten. I think the 49ers will get a player that can really help them win no matter how the board goes.

          1. Yea, he’s been on my radar for almost 3 weeks. Like you, I’m looking forward to seeing how he does in the Senior Bowl….

          2. Agreed, he has impressive measureless and flashes on film. However, being from a small school I would expect more production against lower level competition. Is he a player that is getting by on raw ability and could he be more impressive with better technique? Or is he one of those players that is a big fish in a small pond that also has the benefit of age (grown man strength) and can’t quite get it done against similar better athletes?
            The senior bowl should go a long way to answering those questions. I don’t like either him or key in the top 10 yet, but the niners are in a position where I think they will likely need to reach slightly be it for a db or edge rusher.

      1. http://www.sportingnews.com/nfl/news/philadelphia-eagles-roster-chip-kelly-salary-cap-marcus-smith-players/1577qk36s9cnq1in84e9nmp1xd

        Numbers do lie, but they don’t lie much here: According to the Eagles’ website, with Smith gone and veterans reporting for workouts Thursday, there were 18 players in Eagles camp who were brought in between 2013 and ’15, under Kelly.

        That’s just slightly more than the number in camp that played under Andy Reid, 13. Reid was fired after the 2012 season, so this is Year 5 post-Reid. That regime has almost as strong a foothold as the one that followed.

        The flop of the Kelly empire in Philly didn’t happen in a vacuum, of course. Howie Roseman, demoted under Kelly but an integral part of the Reid era, has been back in charge since. Doug Pederson, a Reid soldier, is the head coach.

  21. NE opens -7 vs Philly…….. I don’t care for either team, but I am no longer anti-NE due to the gift of JimmyG- albeit, while it would suck to see NE get another Lombardi, keeping the fans of Philly from getting their first would possibly be worth it.

  22. Jokenonce again…Philly gets crushed against the Pats..This is abdynastynyou will never see again…Patriots will win the SB every year till Brady retires…Philly has no chance..

  23. Imagine that the ol Razor Eater was wrong again… shocking..just shocking…lol..stop posting you arrogant prick..your always wrong…this dude bats 0 for 100 yet again and again posting like he is the smartest dude on the blog..Get lost clown!

  24. Razor eators mom…”my son is an idiot” ……….he never fit in but I can see why…He always acted smarter than everyone but was wrong every time…

  25. Good picks Grant. I also picked both correctly but wasn’t anywhere near on the final scores. Luckily I took the Over on the Vikes-Eagles so that made for a nice weekend.

  26. Interesting games yesterday. Patriots win again without their top receiver and Brady playing with a cut on his hand. Unprecedented run these guys are on that will never be duplicated imo. Eagles blow out the Vikings just like everybody thought…not. Eagles are a nice story but I’m guessing the Pats win SB number 6 in two weeks. I would love to see the upset though.

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