While the Patriots are in their NFL-record seventh straight conference championship, the Jaguars, Eagles and Vikings are appearing in conference title games for the first time in years.
The Jaguars have made only two previous AFC championship appearances — in 1996 and 1999. They lost both, but this year's group is confident it can pull off another upset following last weekend's surprise 45-42 divisional win at Pittsburgh.
The Eagles and Vikings have a combined six Super Bowl appearances between them but no championships in the Super Bowl era. The winner of Sunday's NFC championship will hope to rectify that.
The Eagles last appeared in the conference title game following the 2008 season, when they lost to Kurt Warner's Cardinals. The Vikings are in the playoffs for just the third time since Brett Favre led them to the NFC championship game in 2009.
NFL conference championship picks, predictions
Jaguars (12-6) at Patriots (14-3)
3:05 p.m. ET, Sunday, (NBC)
The Jaguars have the formula for beating the Patriots: they can rush four guys and get pressure on Brady, while not compromising their ability to hold up on the back end. Between a talented group of safeties, Myles Jack at linebacker and Jalen Ramsey at cornerback, they have the personnel to at least be an impediment to Rob Gronkowski. With Brady's hand potentially being a problem, and gloves coming into play during a potentially very cold game, the Jaguars follow a Tom Coughlin-bred formula and generate pressure on Brady, making him uncomfortable in the pocket.
Offensively, the Jags manage to run the ball with Leonard Fournette and establish Blake Bortles early, giving the young quarterback the confidence to complete several critical third downs in the homestretch. The Jaguars get the ball trailing by two points (21-20) with just over two minutes to go. Bortles manages to move the ball enough that the Jaguars get within field goal range and Josh Lambo hits a game-ending strike that sends the Jaguars to the franchise's first Super Bowl. Read More Here
If there's one thing Bill Belichick and his Patriots coaching staff do better than any other team, it's putting together a solid game plan. Jacksonville's 45-42 victory in Pittsburgh was certainly an eye opener.
While the Jaguars have been impressive in beating the Bills and Steelers, the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots present their biggest challenge.
Bortles has been far too inconsistent throwing the ball to trust the Jaguars at Gillette Stadium against a seasoned team like the Patriots, even with QB Tom Brady nursing a sore throwing hand.
Prediction : Patriots 24, Jaguars 9
Vikings (14-3) at Eagles (14-3)
6:40 p.m., Sunday (Fox)
The Vikings are an outstanding team. They probably have the best defense in the NFL, and they are the most complete unit among both of these teams playing (and probably the most complete unit of any team left, really). Nick Foles is going to struggle to move the ball against Minnesota, and it doesn't feel like the Eagles can come back from 17-0 like the Saints did last weekend against the Vikes.
But, and this is sort of what people seem to be missing for the most part with this game, the Eagles defense is very good too. Case Keenum isn't going to have that "come back to Earth" game everyone has waited on all season. Keep waiting. But he can be limited in terms of moving the ball down the field. The Saints showed as much late when they got pressure on him. The Eagles can generate pressure from their front four without having to blitz, and when they do send pressure defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has shown he's as adept at timing things perfectly in that regard. The Eagles aren't stout on the back end, necessarily, but they have some players who have stepped up down the stretch in Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby. Read More Here
Both will face dominant defensive lines able to force pressure without help from linebackers or defensive backs, meaning they'll face seven- or eight-man coverages. Foles has been inconsistent since taking over for Carson Wentz, but Keenum has shown an uncanny knack for buying time in the pocket, having been sacked only 22 times. He could pick on the Eagles' occasionally spotty pass defense.
Prediction : Vikings 24, Eagles 17