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01-21-2018 08:00

Fair Weather Waits in Philly & Foxboro for NFL Championship Weekend

by Will Strome, NFLWeather.com | 01-21-2018 08:00

The East Coast has been absolutely pummeled with brutal winter weather for weeks now and surprisingly come championship Sunday, both Philadelphia and Foxborough aka Foxboro will be hosting games above freezing temperatures for the first time in weeks.

According to NFLWeather.com, both the AFC and NFC Championship games are expecting decent weather with temperatures in the mid-to-low-40s, after experiencing weeks of arctic conditions. However, if there’s one thing the last few weeks have taught us around the country is that weather conditions can change unexpectedly in an instant. Even though the forecast calls for decent weather, freezing temperatures are lurking once the sun goes down. If that’s the case, all four teams have had plenty of recent experience playing in temps below 32-degrees.

Despite the sun shining, single digit temperatures were waiting for the Jaguars in Pittsburgh but that didn’t stop Jacksonville from steamrolling the Steelers in a massive 45-42 upset. Quarterback Blake Bortles didn’t let the chilly elements get to him, especially when the team needed him most, finishing the game completing 5-of-6 attempts for 120 yards and some crucial first downs after starting the game 9-of-20. He didn’t need to play the role of hero and neither did his sensational rookie running back, Leonard Fournette, who still managed to torch the Black and Gold for 109 yards and three TD’s. It wasn’t one single man who beat the Steelers, it was a team effort, and that’s what it’ll take to stun the Patriots in New England.

The Pats are the heavy favorite to get to Super Bowl LII in Minnesota on Feb 4th, and if a frigid front finds its way into Foxborough then the likelihood of Jacksonville getting to its first Super Bowl in franchise history is substantially less likely. New England showcased its firepower in less than favorable conditions last week against Tennessee, basically freezing the Titans’ offense en route to a 35-14 win.

According to the NFLWeather.com Historical Analytics, the Patriots have won 13 straight home games when the temperature is below freezing with the last loss happening over seven years ago. Five of those frigid wins occurred in January, where Tom Brady is seemingly unbeatable. If Tom Terrific does what he does best and Rob Gronkowski continues to demoralize entire defenses, it’ll be yet another new chapter added to the Belichick-Brady dynasty story.

It seems like the Belichick-Brady combo have conquered just about everything a head coach and quarterback duo can, but they’ve never won a Super Bowl against a team playing on its home field. With the Vikings still in the mix, and U.S. Bank Stadium hosting this season’s grand finale, the Minnesota Vikings could be the first ever team to play in a Super Bowl in their own stadium. But they’ll have to overcome both the Eagles in Philadelphia and the potentially crummy conditions that stand in their way.

Philadelphia is expected to be a bit warmer than New England but with precipitation anticipated on Monday and cool temperatures currently in Eastern PA, below freezing temps are very much a possibility and even a very small chance of flurries (not likely though). Since 2013, on the road in the cold the Vikings are only 2-3 but the most recent was a 16-0 shutout of the hated rival Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field. Minnesota pulled out the near flawless win with a heavy dose of pounding the football and limiting QB Case Keenum to only 25 passing attempts. Like Bortles, Keenum doesn’t need to be the star of the show this week, let the offensive line win the battle in the trenches so the rushers in the Vikings’ backfield can have a field day.

One player who completely uplifted this offense when injuries were devastating Minnesota was Latavius Murray. USA Today’s Steve Gardner had Vikings bruising RB Latavius Murray on his All Waiver Wire Team this season. “Murray took over as the lead back after rookie Dalvin Cook suffered a season-ending knee injury,” Gardner wrote. “However, it wasn’t until he rushed for 113 yards and a score in Week 7 did Murray become an every-week fantasy start.” Minnesota will need to establish the run early and often against an Eagles’ D that allows less than 90 rushing yards per game.

Philadelphia has been rock solid all season but the same can’t be said when the Eagles host a game when the thermometer dips below 32. Since 2011, Philly is only 3-4 at home in the cold but this season’s 6-0 regular season loss to Dallas was in Week 17 with the starters playing only a few snaps. However, last week’s 15-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons showed that even when the franchise quarterback is out (Carson Wentz), the Eagles still look like a complete team.

Quarterback Nick Foles has taken the team on his shoulders and now the Eagles are only one home game win away from a trip to the Super Bowl. Like Philly, Minnesota has an extremely stout defense so the QB can’t do it all alone, the running game will have to chip away at the NFL’s third-best D-unit against the rush. Luckily for the Eagles, the one-two punch of Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount might be the perfect combo to wear down the Vikings D.

It’s an NFL Final Four nobody expected at the beginning of the season. Now, here we are, days away from knowing who will head to Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII. With only one elite quarterback left, on paper, it feels like the Pats’ year. But everyone was expecting to see the Steelers in NE this weekend and, well, here we are!

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