The three seeded, young and confident Jacksonville Jaguars are heading to Foxborough to face the one seeded, defending world champion, New England Patriots. A place where only two quarterbacks [Mark Sanchez and Joe Flacco], not named Tom Brady, have won in the playoffs.
So how does Blake Bortles enter that elite club? With great defenses and the The Great White Night, Tom Coughlin, who’s already slayed the dragon, or Patriots, twice on the biggest stage with no chance of winning either game. The Coughlin-led Giants, brought pressure up the middle with four rushers and didn’t allow Brady to step up in the pocket to deliver a strike.
This just so happens to be Jacksonville’s bread and butter. With the veteran Calais Campbell, who recorded the fastest sack in 2017 according to NextGen Stats, bringing the pressure with Malik Jackson from the line. Brady will have to think about getting rid of the ball quicker than normal. Which again may play right into the dragon slayers hand. Having two of the top 5 cornerbacks in the league, alongwith, the freakish athleticism of Telvin Smith and Myles Jack, the Jaguars will be able to hit the Patriots right at the line and not allow them to get past.
Offensively, the Jaguars scheme works out perfectly on paper. A powerful run game led by the fourth pick in the 2017 draft, Leonard Fournette, goes up against a defense that finished 20th against the run. The Jaguars will do as much as they can to keep the clock rolling and the ball out of the G.O.A.T.’s hands.
We’ll be keeping an eye on Fournette’s ankle since he left the game last week after a spin move that ended with a limp and trip into the locker room. However, Fournette came back to field in the second half and was able to get carries. One slip up though, and Fournette could be watching the game from the locker room with his foot elevated. If this is the case, the Jaguars backup running back, T.J. Yeldon, has shined when needed and is a great compliment to Fournette and can be the go-to-guy if needed.
Although, no matter how many times you run the ball it is inevitable that Bortles will have to throw the ball. If he can continue to dominate on play-action passes then he could have a solid performance. Bortles will have to be aware of Malcolm Butler at all times, who shows up biggest in clutch games and moments. Bortles best bet will be to avoid Butler and target Hurns on the opposite side, which is why he’s making an appearance in a lot of my FanDuel teams.
If the Jaguars can stick to the game script and put pressure on Brady then we could see a monumental upset in the AFC Championship game as the Jaguars move on to the Super Bowl with a 17-14 win in Foxborough.
Yet, before we start crowning Ramsey and the Jaguars, let’s take a look at how the Patriots could come away with a win.
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are no strangers to the AFC Championship game. This Sunday will mark the seventh consecutive AFC title game that these two have been in. Albeit, their record in the last six AFC title games are 3-3 and they haven’t won back to back AFC Championships in that span. Just a reminder, the Patriots won last year’s over Pittsburgh.
If Brady does want to advance to the Superbowl for the third time in four years, the Patriots will need to be able to run the ball. The cornerbacks will be too much for Cooks and Hogan. Gronkowski should be getting doubled almost every play. The linebackers for Jacksonville are fast, along with, the safeties. So passing to the running backs will be harder than normal. All this compiles to Dion Lewis coming up bigger in this game than any other game of his career.
The Patriots, on defense, will have to focus almost entirely on Fournette and make Bortles win in the passing game. Which is easier said than done, but if you can stop the running game and take away the play actions, then Bortles will be outed very quickly for his poor passes. If this is the case the Patriots should roll into Minnesota with a 28-7 win in Foxborough.
After giving you the two scenarios for both teams to win it’s time for my prediction. There isn’t a lot more that I want to see, then to see the Jaguars on the road pull off this upset. All the tangibles are there and they have no fear and nothing to lose.
All that being said, I predict the Patriots to remain the best team in the AFC with a 24-14 victory over the Jaguars.