With just four teams left, there's one game standing between three Terps and the Super Bowl. While Torrey Smith, Stefon Diggs and Yannick Ngakoue all took different paths to championship weekend, each were major contributors to their teams' wins in the divisional round.
Of the four teams left in the playoffs, the Patriots are the only one that doesn’t have a former Maryland player on their roster, in case you needed another reason to root against them
— Terps Watch (@TerpsWatch) January 15, 2018
With everyone outside Foxborough rooting against the Patriots, it's guaranteed that we'll see another Terp in the big game; whether it will be Smith's second appearance or Ngakoue or Diggs' first remains to be seen.
Last weekend, the Jaguars took down the Steelers in Pittsburgh for the second time this season, with their defense forcing two turnovers along the way. Ngakoue provided one of the sparks with a strip sack of Ben Roethlisberger that led to Telvin Smith's scoop-and-score. If Sacksonville wants to keep its Cinderella run alive, Ngakoue and company will have to get to Tom Brady.
The Patriots are the only team this postseason to have not yet allowed a sack. The Jags ranked second in the league with 55 sacks during the regular season, and they're tied for third in the playoffs with four sacks through two games. Jacksonville was able to come out on top over Pittsburgh thanks to its confidence and toughness. Going up against a New England team that's playing in its seventh consecutive AFC Championship, Ngakoue and the Jags are going to have to bring a lot of both.
Not many people thought the Eagles would take on an underdog role this postseason, but with Nick Foles under center, they proved many experts wrong beating the Falcons. Now, with the Vikings coming to Lincoln Financial Field, Philly faces long odds yet again. One can only imagine how many dog masks will be in the stands, but it'll be a tough task to put up points against this favored Minnesota team and its top-ranked defense.
While Smith wasn't a top target for Carson Wentz during most of the regular season, he's seen more action with Foles in the lineup. Last week, his top play came from a knee — his lucky 20-yard deflection reception helped Philadelphia sneak in a field goal before halftime, which made a big difference down the stretch. The Vikings defense is a whole different animal, but the Eagles offense began to click more in the second half against Atlanta. Philly will need to string together some big plays if it wants to punch a ticket to Minneapolis.
Contrary to the Eagles, the Vikings are booking tickets back to Minneapolis no matter what happens on Sunday. They are looking to become the first team in NFL history to play in a Super Bowl that their city hosts, which would be a huge advantage for the SKOL fans. Minnesota still has this chance thanks to Diggs and the buzzer-beater touchdown that shocked Who Dat Nation.
Diggs will be looking to do much of the same in Philadelphia, but it might not be as easy. The NFC Championship features two of the best defenses in the league, with the Vikings allowing the fewest yards overall and the Eagles finishing tied for fourth in interceptions. This game could very well be a low-scoring affair, and the difference will likely come down to who can make a big play in the end. If I'm putting money on anyone to step up, it's going to be No. 14.