The Jacksonville Jaguars will travel to Foxborough, Massachusetts to take on the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game. The AFC title game will kick off at 3:05 PM/ET.
The Jacksonville Jaguars went toe-to-toe with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round and came out on top. Any thought that the Jaguars offense wasn’t talented enough to win a shootout was put to bed. The Jaguars’ offense went back and forth with Pittsburgh, ultimately prevailing with a score of 45-42.
The Jaguars, a team that few expected to make a run at a conference title, felt disrespected by a Steelers organization that got caught looking ahead to their next opponent. Jacksonville will now have to face a Patriots team that’s making their seventh straight appearance in the AFC Championship game.
The Patriots are coming off a dominant win over the Tennessee Titans. The Patriots fell behind 7-0 in the first quarter, before scoring 35 straight points. The Titans were held scoreless until the last two minutes when the Titans scored a touchdown in garbage time to make the final score 35-14 New England.
The Patriots are now one game away from a 6th trip to the Super Bowl in the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick era. While New England will avoid facing a rematch with Steelers, the Jaguars present a distinct challenge to the Patriots’ chances of reaching the big game.
If the glove doesn’t fit?
The biggest news story this week coming out of Foxborough is the surprising injury to Brady’s throwing hand. According to multiple reports, Tom Brady injured his throwing hand earlier this week when a teammate ran into him. The Patriots have not given out many details, which is typical of Belichick and the way he does injury reports.
Perhaps the most curious bit of information is that Brady hasn’t been seen without wearing gloves. Even in his press conferences, Brady has gloves on, which leads many to believe that Brady’s injury is potentially more severe than the Patriots are leading on.
Brady has never missed a playoff game in his career. In Brady’s first playoff run in 2001, he was knocked out of the game and replaced with backup (former starter) Drew Bledsoe. Bledsoe went on to win that AFC title game against Pittsburgh. Perhaps not coincidentally, Bledsoe will serve as the honorary captain in this week’s matchup with Jacksonville.
The Patriots have only one backup quarterback behind Brady, and that’s Brian Hoyer. If Brady is unable to go, then Hoyer would start in his place. All signs point to Brady starting Sunday, but the very real possibility that Brady’s injured hand may affect his accuracy is a possibility.
The better team won.
The Steelers looked like a team primed for a second crack at the Patriots and got caught looking ahead. The Jaguars might not have the flash that the Steelers have on offense, but after dismantling the Pittsburgh defense, they’re clearly the better team. With a chance to go to the Super Bowl, expect the Jaguars defense to play lights out and pressure Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense.
Jacksonville is known for its defense, but it was their offense that got them the victory in Pittsburgh. Every time the Steelers scored, the Jaguars offense responded. Regardless of what the stat sheet says, the victory in Pittsburgh was thanks in large part to Blake Bortles. Looking at the quarterback’s numbers, Bortles managed the game well passing for 214 yards on 14 completions and finding the end zone once for a score. His passing numbers don’t stand out, but this Bortles is no longer the weak link, and that’s huge.
Against the Steelers, Bortles connected with nine different receivers. On a crucial third down late in the game, when Pittsburgh looked destined to come back, Bortles connected with running back T.J. Yeldon in the flats for a first down. Bortles’ ability to avoid mistakes will ultimately decide this game.
Patriots vs Jaguars Betting Lines
The Patriots are the favorite and, regardless of Brady’s injury, will present a difficult test for the Jaguars. Jacksonville is, perhaps better than any team in this year’s playoff, uniquely positioned to attack New England’s offense. The Patriots have lost two Super Bowls at the hands of former New York Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin and as Jacksonville’s executive vice president of football operations, his imprint on this Jaguars team is everywhere.
The Patriot’s have always struggled when facing a strong interior rush, and this Jaguars team is capable of creating that pressure. The key for the Jaguars is generating pressure on Brady and then keeping him on the sideline. If the Patriots offense cannot sustain drives and the Jacksonville offense with their fierce rushing attack can, the Patriots are in huge trouble.
The Patriots’ offense will need to find ways to stay on the field and slowly grind away at the Jaguars defense. Jacksonville’s corners are physical on the outside and their linebackers match up well with Gronkowski. This game will come down to the Patriots ability to run the ball and Brady’s ability to extend plays. Expect James White, Rex Burkhead, and Deon Lewis to play a huge role in this game as well as fullback James Devlin. In the end, expect the Patriots defense to stop Fournette and force Bortles to win the game from the pocket. This game is going to come down to the fourth quarter, but the Patriots will do enough to advance to their 6th Super Bowl.
Play: Patriots -7.5 @ BetOnline.ag