• Under the spotlight in the Conference Championship Games: Blake Bortles, Nick Foles, the Jags’ run D, Philly’s pass rush, and more
By Albert Breer
January 19, 2018

Now that the playoffs are here, we’ll count down five top storylines to watch in the weekend’s games, all the way up to Super Bowl 52. So here goes …

5. We’ll be keeping a close eye on how the Jaguars defend Rob Gronkowski. Jacksonville allowed just 616 yards against tight end during the regular season, the fourth-best figure in football, but struggled with Pittsburgh’s Vance McDonald last week. On paper, Jacksonville has the athletes to deal with Gronk, as much as anyone could be expected to.

4. How will the interior of the Minnesota offensive line deal with Fletcher Cox? The Vikings have shuffled their guard spots over the last few weeks, and the Saints defense was able to pressure Case Keenum last Sunday. Cox, meanwhile, has been an absolute game-wrecker for the Eagles, gave the Falcons all they could handle last week, and may be the biggest matchup problem facing Minnesota on Sunday.

3. Can the Jags’ defense effectively stop Dion Lewis and the Patriots’ run game? As dominant as Jacksonville has looked at times, the concerns in that area were deep enough to necessitate the Marcell Dareus trade in midseason, and Lewis has become a centerpiece for New England, logging double-digit touches in each of the Patriots’ last 12 games.

2. Will the Philadelphia offensive line be able protect Nick Foles? The Eagles front, which has played most of the season without Jason Peters, was sturdy against Atlanta, which allowed for Foles to effectively manage the game. The trouble for Foles comes when things get muddy around him, and you can bet Mike Zimmer is going to have some tricks in store to get Everson Griffen and company loose up front.

1. And our number one thing to watch this weekend—that’s right: Blake Bortles. No one thought he’d be here, and most of you still don’t think he’s any good. But last week he delivered when the Jaguars needed him to, converting six third downs with throws that added up to 88 yards, and another on a 16-yard run. Leonard Fournette should be a factor in Foxboro, but he’ll need Bortles to at least find a way to keep the Patriots honest.

Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.



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