Minnesota's divisional round victory against New Orleans exercised more than just demons for long-suffering Minnesota fans. 

It also taught valuable lessons to handicappers. 

In the world of sports handicapping, games within one score of the final odds, are never over until the final whistle blows. Now with late-game laterals being more common, we've seen multiple late-game covers by recovered fumbles in the end zone. 

This was definitely an uncommon case in the Vikings game, but strange things happen from time to time. So never lose faith.

And once again, the number that you bet matters. I got the game at 4.5, while people who waited until the end, got the game at 5.5. That didn't seem like a major difference, but with the final score ending up 29-24, it mattered, much like other instances throughout the season. 

The Minnesota Miracle helped produce a 3-1 ATS record for the Chalk last week, including two straight-up upset calls with Jacksonville and Philadelphia. Here's my favorite NFL playoff picks for the AFC and NFC Championship games. 

Playoffs: 5-3 ATS

Overall: 49-58-3 ATS

Jacksonville at New England (-9)

Jacksonville's lack of balance will come back to haunt them in the AFC Championship game. 

I wasn't worried about that lack of balance against Pittsburgh, since I didn't value the Steelers' defense as much as I currently do with the Patriots. New England went through an early spat of being horrendous on the defensive side of the ball. 

Now, though, they're a middle-of-the-pack defense at worst in the NFL. That's enough to keep the Jaguars out of the end zone for the most part. And even though Jacksonville's defense will be better in this game than against Pittsburgh, the Jaguars won't have enough to keep the Patriots completely out of the end zone. 

Without offensive balance, the Jaguars won't be able to move the ball consistently enough against New England to score with the Patriots. Conversely, much like Pittsburgh, New England is showing consistency in a balanced offensive attack, which should counterbalance Jacksonville's strong pass rush. 

This is a lot of points, but I'm falling off the Jaguars bandwagon, and hopping on with the Patriots Super Bowl train. — Go Chalk with New England

Minnesota at Philadelphia (+3.5)

This game reeks of being a field-goal contest. 

Both teams have quarterbacks who aren't accustomed to being in this spot. Both teams have stingy defenses. And both teams are lights out in the red zone. 

So if I'm getting more than a field goal, I'm taking the points and running with it. 

What's noteworthy about this number, though, is the disdain the betting public and oddsmakers have for the Eagles and Nick Foles. Imagine if Carson Wentz was the quarterback. It's very plausible that the Eagles would be a field-goal favorite at worst in this contest. 

Quarterbacks are valuable, but I'm just not sure Wentz is that valuable to Philadelphia's bottom line. That's why I'm comfortable backing the Eagles in this situation, even if I'd probably back the Vikings to win straight up. 

Points will be at a premium in this game, so take what oddsmakers will give you. — Go Against The Chalk with Philadelphia

Scott Levine is the Associate Editor for the Clinton Herald. During his free time, he blogs about fantasy sports and handicaps games. Check out more at Against The Chalk. 

Scott Levine can be reached at scottlevine@clintonherald.com or on Twitter @ScottLevineCH

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