NFL AFC Championship Game - New England Patriots vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (Monday 7:05am AEDT)
In the era of parity, it's staggering to think the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots will be contesting their seventh straight AFC Championship Game.
Jacksonville Jaguars, meanwhile, haven't played in the fixture for 18 years, and it's no surprise to see the odds suggesting their fairytale run will end at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots are $1.22 favourites to return to the Super Bowl with Jacksonville $4.35 outsiders.
New England scored 35 straight points to rout Tennessee Titans 35-14 in their Divisional Playoff, with quarterback Tom Brady outstanding in going 35-of-53 for 337 yards and three touchdown passes. Wide receiver Danny Amendola had 112 receiving yards, tight end Rob Gronkowski caught a touchdown pass and posed match-up nightmares, and versatile running back Dion Lewis had 141 offensive yards (79 receiving; 62 rushing).
Head coach Bill Belichick would have been ecstatic with the defence as Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was sacked eight times.
Jacksonville defeated the Steelers in Pittsburgh for the second time this season, with their 45-42 Divisional Playoff win headlined by running back Leonard Fournette, who scored three touchdowns and ran for 109 rushing yards.
The Patriots are considered far superior to the Jaguars, but both teams finished in the top five for points scored and lowest points allowed in the regular season. New England were second for passing yards, showcasing Brady's skills, while Jacksonville were the top rushing team courtesy of Fournette.
Tennessee were middle-of-the-pack in points conceded this season, so New England will face a much sterner test this week. Also, the Patriots were ranked in the bottom half of rushing yards allowed, which the Jaguars can exploit.
It's sacrilegious to tip against Brady and Belichick at home, but Jacksonville can stay within striking distance and possibly reach their first Super Bowl behind a strong running game and a tenacious defence.