There are just three games left in the 2017-18 NFL season with both conference title games and the Super Bowl on the schedule. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been a fixture in the final four for the past seven years, but there are new faces in the conference title games.
What would the odds have been prior to the season to parlay “Tom Brady will be a final four quarterback with Blake Bortles, Nick Foles, and Case Keenum?” It likely would have turned a $1 bet into $1,000,000.
This is the year we should throw out Bill Simmons’ whole model of “rank the quarterback and head coach and pick the higher number” predictions as we saw Bortles and Doug Marrone upset Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin, and Foles and Doug Pederson take down Matt Ryan and Dan Quinn. But this season has revealed the split second we throw away convention is the exact time they come back to focus.
So let’s rank the head coaches and quarterbacks in the conference title games on a scale of 1 to 5 to see how they predict the outcome. Generally speaking, each point bucket is a range of 6 persons.
Patriots HC Bill Belichick (5/5): Belichick is a clear 5 out of 5 and if I were willing to violate the sanctity of these rankings I would have made him a 10 out of 5.
Vikings HC Mike Zimmer (4/5): Zimmer is a top 10 coach and deserves all the credit for the Vikings overcoming so many injuries.
Eagles HC Doug Pederson (4/5): Pederson is a viable Coach of the Year candidate and is doing a great job with Philadelphia. He can be trusted to put his players in the best position to succeed.
Jaguars HC Doug Marrone (3/5): Marrone isn’t the schemer that the other three are and that’s why he’s not a 4, but he brings the authority and discipline that pushed the Jaguars over the top.
Patriots QB Tom Brady (5/5): Again, Brady is an obvious 5 out of 5 and could have been a 10 out of 5, too.
Vikings QB Case Keenum (4/5): Keenum is on the border of being a 5 out of 5, but I would take Brady, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Carson Wentz, and Matthew Stafford over Keenum and I would consider Ben Roethlisberger, Jared Goff, and Alex Smith.
Jaguars QB Blake Bortles (2/5): Bortles is a below-average quarterback and there are roughly 20 quarterbacks that would be ranked ahead of him.
Eagles QB Nick Foles (1/5): Foles is a back-up that has a 78.5 passer rating in the four seasons following his miraculous 2013 year. Bortles has a better passer rating over that time frame.
New England Patriots: 10/10
It’s no surprise that the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady duo get perfect ratings. They’re the best in the league at their respective positions and they are rightfully the heavy favorites against the Jaguars.
Minnesota Vikings: 8/10
It is a surprise that Mike Zimmer and Case Keenum pair up for a pretty great combination. Zimmer is as solid of a head coach as there is, while Keenum played like a top 10 quarterback in 2017. They are also rightfully the road favorite against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Jacksonville Jaguars: 5/10
The combo of Doug Marrone and Blake Bortles are greatly propped up by their outstanding defense and there are definitely echoes of the 2015 Denver Broncos with how this team is assembled. This will be as close of an answer as we can get of whether the Patriots would have won the 2015-16 AFC Championship Game if it were at Gillette Stadium instead of Mile High.
Philadelphia Eagles: 5/10
Doug Pederson is a great coach, while Nick Foles is not a great quarterback. They did just enough to get by the Atlanta Falcons, but 15 points probably won’t be enough to defeat the Vikings coming off one of the most incredible games this year.
If these ratings have any bearing on the outcomes of next weekend’s games, the Patriots and Vikings will have a date in Super Bowl LII in the Vikings’ own backyard. What do you think of these rankings?