Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are headed back to the AFC Championship.
The New England Patriots are headed back to the AFC Championship, and will await the winner of the Jaguars-Steelers matchup. The AFC Championship will be the early game next week kicking off on Sunday, January 20th at 3:05 p.m. Eastern on CBS. It will lead into the NFC Championship at 6:40 p.m. Eastern on Fox. The two potential opponents are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars. According to OddsShark, the Steelers are favored by seven points over the Jaguars, despite Jacksonville dominating Pittsburgh on the road earlier this season.
Pittsburgh has the edge in experience along with the home field advantage. Florida teams have tended to struggle in cold weather environments during the playoffs, and the Jagaurs face an uphill battle against the Steelers.
The Patriots narrowly lead the head-to-head series over the Steelers 16-15. Pittsburgh has lost five straight games against New England, including a recent Week 15 matchup. If the Steelers defeat the Jaguars, it would be the second straight year the Patriots-Steelers have matched up in the AFC Championship.
New England has also been dominant against Jacksonville, but the Jaguars look much different than when these two teams last played in 2015. The Patriots own a 10-1 lead over the Jaguars in the series.
There was some curiosity over how the Patriots would perform after ESPN’s Seth Wickersham’s story about the division within the Patriots locker room. If the Divisional Round is any indication, the Patriots look to be just fine, but they will face a much more difficult opponent in the AFC Championship than a Titans team that backed into the playoffs.
New England has not played Jacksonville this season, but was victorious over Pittsburgh 27-24. Tom Brady threw for 298 yards, one touchdown and an interception against the Steelers. Rob Gronkowski had a massive game with nine receptions for 168 yards. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 281 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
In addition to their win against the Steelers, New England has wins over the Saints, Falcons and Bills. Overall, the Patriots went 13-3 during the regular season, and performed almost as well in Vegas going 12-5 against the spread. New England went 6-3 against the spread at home, and was 12-5 as a favorite.
The Patriots have been favored in every game they have played in this season, and fans should not expect that to change in the AFC Championship. Regardless of their opponent, the Patriots will be favored over the Steelers or Jaguars. The 2018 AFC Championship marks the seventh straight conference title game the Patriots have played in. New England was victorious in three of their previous six AFC Championship games.