Showdowns set: Jags-Patriots in AFC, Vikings-Eagles in NFC

Published Jan. 14, 2018

NEW YORK — Watch out, New England. Here comes Sacksonville.

Get ready, Philly. The Vikings are sailing into town.

Tom Brady and the big game-tested Patriots square off against the sack-happy Jaguars (12-6) next Sunday in the AFC Championship Game in Foxborough, Mass.

"It's been an awesome year," Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said, "and we want to keep it going."

In the NFC, Nick Foles and the Eagles host Case Keenum and the Vikings in a matchup of teams that overcame losing their starting quarterbacks.

"They count us out all the time," said Minnesota receiver Stefon Diggs.

Being here is nothing new, of course, for New England, which has advanced to the Super Bowl in three of the past six seasons.

And, it has all come full circle for Tom Coughlin, who was Jacksonville's coach the previous time the franchise got this far in the postseason.

He went on to win two Super Bowls with the Giants — both against Bill Belichick's Patriots — but is now the Jaguars' executive vice president of football operations. He helped assemble a squad with coach Doug Marrone that has been powered by a tenacious defense.

Jacksonville's first AFC Championship Game appearance came during the 1996 season — against New England, which went on to play in the Super Bowl under then-coach Bill Parcells and lost to the Brett Favre-led Packers.

"The reality of the NFL is what we did this week will have nothing to do with what happens next week," Brady said.

The Jaguars are playing in the conference title game for the third time — they also lost to Tennessee during the 1999 season. Jacksonville is one of four franchises to never play in the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia is playing for the NFC title for the 11th time, but hasn't won it since the 2004 season — when the Eagles went on to lose to the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

"We'll be ready," Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said.

The Vikings entered the season with Sam Bradford as their quarterback. But he went down with a knee injury after the first week. Enter Keenum, who had the best season of his career.