Don’t be surprised to hear roars of “Duval!” as the Jacksonville Jaguars take on the New England Patriots in the 2018 AFC Championship match taken place at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The Jaguars will make sure they will have some fans to cheer on this Cinderella-esque team in a tough frigid environment.
The Jaguars have absolutely defied all odds to even make it into the playoffs under first-year head coach Doug Marrone, who became the interim head coach for the final two games of the 2016 season. Under his leadership and the experience of Tom Coughlin, the Executive Vice President of Football operations, they were able to create a winning product on the field with a 10-6 record. They won the AFC South to earn a third seed and home-field advantage in the Wild-Card game. They defeated the Buffalo Bills in the Wild-Card round, riding their dominant defense to a 10-3 victory. Then they proceeded to pull off an unbelievable 45-42 upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road behind running back Leonard Fournette’s three rushing touchdowns and a fumble recovery that went for a touchdown.
Who’s actually surprised that the Patriots clinched a playoff berth? At the beginning of the season, I’m sure all Patriots fans were already decking out their man caves and homes preparing for the annual playoff berth. The Patriots had clinched a playoff spot 18 times in Kraft’s 23 years. They also came into the season with eight straight AFC East Titles.
But how far will the Patriot’s prominence among the NFL last and will the upstart Jaguars have enough willpower to pull off another magnificent upset?
Preview and Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars vs New England Patriots
The Jacksonville Jaguars are red-hot coming into this game after stealing a victory at Heinz Field, jeopardizing Steeler’s coach Mike Tomlin’s position. The Jaguar’s victories are a testament to two chief points: pounding the football and playing physical defense. This is the blueprint Coughlin guided his team by in winning the 2011 Super Bowl with the New York Giants. The Giants utilized an unstoppable backfield duo of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs that kept defenses off balance because of their contrasting styles of play. Bradshaws’ lateral quickness, speed, and ability to catch out of the backfield was problematic for opposing defenses to defend alongside the up and down physicality of Jacobs wore down defenses and opened up the passing game. They had 17 touchdowns combined with over 2,000 rushing yards.
The 27th ranked Giants defense flipped a switch in the playoffs as they were able to create turnovers on the road to squeak out wins. At Lambeau field, the Giants forced Aaron Rodgers offense to produce four turnovers, three of them as fumbles. These second chance opportunities proved valuable and boosted the morale of the defense. The next two games they were able to hold both opponents, to 17 points each.
Timely defense is exactly what the Jaguars need come Sunday if they want to have any shot of pulling another upset against a Bill Belichick led team. Every play and yard will matter as we know Brady is spending his nights reviewing game tape instead of Netflix. His keenness and precise attention to detail will be the key factors thwarting another possible upset. Despite losing, Ben Roethlisberger, a future Hall Of Fame Quarterback was able to pick apart the Pro-Bowl tandem of AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey. He threw for over 469 yards and had five touchdowns, spreading the ball to seven different receivers.
However, the Steelers defense did not have enough in the tank to stop the charge led by Fournette, who was a nightmare on the ground. He rushed for over 100 yards and scored three times. His ability to bulldoze defenders and fight for extra yards allowed the Jaguars to control the clock. Any way of keeping the ball out of Tom Brady’s hand is a winning formula for any team as long as they are offensively efficient. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia defensive schemes for rushing teams will be the difference-maker. Look at how his team stifled both Mariota and Henry last week. He will do the same against the Jaguars. FORCE BORTLES TO BEAT YOU IN THE AIR!
Bill Belichick will make sure his troops are mentally and physically prepared for this matchup and I expect him to have his team ready to stamp a signature win for the AFC championship. Blake Bortles inefficiency at quarterback will be exposed just as it was against the Bills when he threw for under 80 passing yards. The Patriots will arrange an array of defensive packages to confuse the young quarterback and force him to throw in the pocket. Bortles first time on the big stage will not be one to remember as he will throw at least one pick. He will also see limited efficiency out of Fournette, who will be experiencing a stacked box and heavy presence at the line from the Patriots. It will be a long early evening in Foxborough.