The greatest show on turf — and grass

It’s been a crazy season with all kinds of strange upsets, so why should it stop now?

The first-time-ever No. 6 seed being a favorite over a No. 1 seed ended up being an upset when the team that always should’ve been favored to win actually did.

Did that make sense? That was Philadelphia coming out of the weeds as Nick Foles finally found his mojo and the Eagles pulled out a victory over last year’s Super Bowl runner-up, Atlanta.

How the heck did Jacksonville score 45 points at Pittsburgh after managing just 10 points the week before at home against the Buffalo Bills?

And then there’s that incredible play by the Minnesota Vikings’ Stefon Diggs to not only make the catch in the waning seconds, but being able to take the post-catch run to the end zone as the only possible way to pull out that victory over New Orleans.

Just another week in the 2017-18 NFL season, I guess.

So I’m not bitterly disappointed — OK, I’ll admit to mild disappointment, though — in predicting three of last week’s four games incorrectly.

But it’s all part of the price of entertainment. And with all the other problems the NFL is suffering from, the competitiveness of the product can’t be called into question.

Unless, that is, you’re talking about the New England Patriots. I don’t despise them, I don’t love them, they’re just there as far as I’m concerned. Maybe it’s because my team, the Detroit Lions, has had so little hope of meeting Bill Belichick & Co. in the Super Bowl during these Patriot glory years.

But in this roiling sea of playoff uncertainty, the Patriots produced an easy three-touchdown victory over Tennessee last Saturday.

I’ve noticed that Detroit is hitching its wagon to ex-pat Pats, in a manner of speaking. Looking up online about Bob Quinn, Lions executive vice president and general manager, I discovered some other Lions-Patriots connections. Obviously not strong enough ones, considering each team’s quite different histories.

Quinn, of course, was with New England for 16 seasons, lastly as director of pro scouting.

Some others Lions’ staff not on the playing field are former Patriots — defensive assistant George Godsey, tight ends coach Al Golden, strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash Jr. and vice president of player personnel Kyle O’Brien.

On the same www.patriots.com website where I discovered all of that information, I also found out Belichick was on the Lions’ coaching staff for two years (1976-77) as an assistant special teams coach, adding tight ends and wide receivers to his portfolio the second year.

And Belichick’s father, Steve Belichick, played fullback with the Lions in 1941.

So all this makes me ask — they kept Wayne Fontes around for a decade but they couldn’t find a place for Bill Belichick?

Don’t answer that, I don’t want to know. Instead, let me offer you my conference championship picks:

Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots, AFC, 3 p.m. Sunday, CBS — This slam-dunk pick is suddenly somewhat up in the air due to quarterback Tom Brady’s throwing-hand injury.

The Patriots haven’t been talking much — there’s a surprise — so it’s hard to determine how serious this is.

However, I’ve heard a couple of key points swinging in New England’s favor.

The Jaguars are weaker against the run, so if Brady is limited they might still have an effective offense, especially in the cold — maybe rain or snow too? — in Massachusetts.

And that horrendous Patriots defense from early in the season? That’s gone, and actually I hear New England has had more sacks in recent games than Jacksonville has.

All this might not make up for a stunted Brady — remember his state connection as a University of Michigan graduate — but I also don’t think it’s enough to not take the favorite. Patriots, 24-16.

Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles, NFC, 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Fox — Two substitute QBs facing off, but while Foles has more experience in the league, the Vikes’ Case Keenum has tasted a lot more success this season.

Before the playoffs started, New Orleans was my NFC pick to make the Super Bowl — aargh! — so I’m not overly worried that it took a literal miracle for Minnesota to get past them.

I’ll agree with the pundit — I think this one was on one of the Fox networks — that Minnesota is better on both offense and on defense, more that enough to make up for home-field disadvantage.

Now, will the fates conspire to make sure the Super Bowl is never a home game for somebody? Naw, Vikings, 27-24.

Last week — 1-3, 25 percent. Playoff total — 3-5, 38 percent.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


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