AFC CHAMPIONSHIP: #1 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS vs #3 JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
#1 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS vs #3 JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
(Sunday January 21st, 2018 3:05pm EST CBS)
September 27th, 2015 was the last time these teams met in the regular season. That game was also held in Foxboro stadium but that game didnt have a trip to the Superbowl in the line. That’s lucky for the Jags because Brady and his Patriots scored at least 10 points in all 4 quarters as they steamrolled Jacksonville on the way to a 51-17 win. RB LeGarrette Blount had three 1 yard TD run while Brady tossed 2 TDs and one of them just happened to be his 400th career touchdown pass.
Blake Bortles didnt have a horrible game, he tossed 2 TDs and 1 interception while passing for 242 yards. The team was unable to establish a running game as they totaled 57 yards on 20 carries. They have since shored that running attack up and is one of the primary reasons they have gotten as far as they have this season.
This is a strength vs strength type of match up as the best pass defense in the National Football League is set to take on arguably the best Quarterback to play the game. Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots potent offense will try and continue their onslaught on opponents as Jalen Ramsey and his unit have other things in mind. Probably more important than the Jaguars secondary is the pass rush, Calais Campbell and Marcel Darius will have to push the pocket and get up the middle pressure on Brady if they want to advance to the teams first Superbowl. Up the middle pressure will prevent Brady from being able to climb the pocket and find his cutting wide outs and running backs.
The defensive strategy sounds simple enough but executing it will be anything but simple. The Patriots defense has had its issues throughout the year and can be had with the right gameplan but the inconsistency of Jags QB Blake Bortles could be an issue. For the Jags to have a real shot in this one they will have to hit Brady, force a few turnovers and be able to sustain drives. Sustaining drives means they must run Leonard Fournette and keep the Patriots offense on the sideline. Also find a way to keep them under 24 points which isn’t an easy task.
To start the game Jacksonville will be able to run the ball with some success. Leonard Fournette comes in a little banged up so T.J. Yeldon will also be a factor. Early pressure on Brady will see the Jags defense force a turnover that gives them momentum but like clock work Bill Belichick and his staff rights the ship and things begin to turn in the favor of the Patriots. James White and Dion Lewis will play a big part in the passing game as quick hitters will be the formula for New England.
The Patriots pass defense has its holes and big plays will be needed for Jacksonville keep it close but Blake Bottles won’t be able to exploit them as much as he needs to for his team to be successful. Rob Gronkowski is a match up problem that not many teams have the personnel to lock him up. Expect to see LB Telvin Smith, FS Barry Church and even All-pro CB Jalen Ramsey covering Gronk. The Jags will be game but in the end, the New England Patriots will be just too much for this young team to handle as the fall short of their first Superbowl appearance.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
PATRIOTS – Dion Lewis
JAGUARS – Keelan Cole
PATRIOTS 27 – JAGUARS 20