Posted on September 13, 2018, by Travis Pulver
During the AFC Championship last season, it appeared as if something crazy was going to happen. With a ten-point lead in the fourth quarter, it looked like the Jacksonville Jaguars were going to take down the New England Patriots. But then Tom Brady happened, and the Jags season came to an end.
Jacksonville has had plenty of time to think about went wrong that day. While a win this week against the Patriots will not send them to the Super Bowl, it would be a moral victory that is actually a victory.
But are they up to the task?
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Once again, the Jaguars are going to lean heavily on their defense to win games—which is fine since they have one of the best the league has seen in years. But it isn’t enough just to keep the other team from scoring. The Jags have to figure out how to put some points on the board themselves.
They weren’t too bad at doing so last year (26.1 points/game; 5th in the league). But there is a chance they may have to do so without one of their best weapons on offense—Leonard Fournette. He left last week’s game early with an injury (hamstring) and has yet to practice all week.
The tentative plan is to have him test it on Friday. But it would be shocking if the Jags were to risk further injury to their star running back so early in the season. While T.J. Yeldon isn’t bad, his game doesn’t compare to Fournette’s.
If they could count on Blake Bortles to do more than not lose the game, the Jags would still be in great shape. But they can’t. They need both running backs to grind out the tough yards—and more importantly, eat up the clock.
Tom Brady can’t lead another comeback if he can’t get on the field.
New England Patriots
In recent years, the Patriots have had Houston’s number, but last week they were not able to put the Texans away. In typical Tom Brady-fashion, they took a commanding 21-6 lead into halftime as the offense took care of business and Deshaun Watson struggled to get his groove back.
But then Watson started to get it back in the second half, and things changed. Houston’s defense held the Patriots to just six points while the offense was able to put up 14. Houston was helped by a rare Rob Gronkowski fumble and a muffed punt, but they also put the brakes on the Patriots offense when they needed to.
As usual, the Patriots had a decent but far-from-good running game; they gained 122 yards total, led by Rex Burkhead who had 64. With not much help at wide receiver, Brady leaned on Rob Gronkowski, and it seemed to work (seven receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown).
To be fair, Phillip Dorsett had a good game (seven receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown). But he is going to have a much tougher time against Jacksonville’s defense.
So—who’s going to win?
Much like the AFC Championship game last season, this is going to be a very good game. But in the end, until Brady gets Julian Edelman back, the Pats offense is going to suffer (a little). Against most teams, it would be no big deal. But against one with a defense like the Jags—it is.
The prediction: Jacksonville’s inconsistency on offense can make a person nervous, but I’d still take the Jags to win (-105).