After several days of drama, the most talked about hand since Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup will finally be put to the test in today’s AFC Championship Game.
Thank God it’s Sunday!
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady goes into the game with stitches in his throwing hand after teammate Rex Burkhead reportedly ran into it by accident. It remains to be seen if he plays with one glove – a la Michael Jackson – or two gloves – a la Kurt Warner. If Brady goes the two-glove route, it might help him perform like Warner, who used that approach to lead the Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII nine seasons ago.
Brady’s status might give the Jaguars an advantage, but as long as New England backup QB Brian Hoyer doesn’t play, the Patriots will have the upper hand. As a matter of fact, there are several things working against Jacksonville, even though it comes in off a thrilling win over Pittsburgh last week.
For starters, how healthy is Leonard Fournette? Yes, he ran for 109 yards and three touchdowns last week against the Steelers but also suffered an ankle injury, which kept him out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Plus, he was reportedly rear-ended in a car accident on Tuesday, so his performance today will be one to watch.
Secondly, how will the Jags stop Rob Gronkowski? The terrific tight end is averaging 7.3 catches over his last four games and more than likely will be Hoyer’s top target if Brady doesn’t play.
And last but not least, do you trust Blake Bortles on the road in the biggest game of his life? He’s been turnover-free over the last two weeks, but he also has completed only 53.1 percent of his passes. If Hoyer ends up taking most of New England’s snaps today, then Bortles has the edge. But until we see Hoyer start the game, then the lean here is on Brady and the Patriots.
Even though Brady and I share a birthday, I will never call him “Sir”. And even though I will never be part of TB12, I’m fully aware that he and the Pats are 11-2 ATS in their last 13 games. Expect that trend to continue, with New England covering by virtue of a 30-20 final.
The pick: Patriots -7.5 and over 45.5.