2008 AFC Divisional Playoffs: Jacksonville Jaguars (12-5) +13, 48.5 O/U at New England Patriots
(16-0) -13, 48.5 O/U, Gillette Stadium, 8 PM Eastern, Saturday
by Badger of Predictem.com
After a one week layoff the New England Patriots put their undefeated
season on the line again, this time hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars
in an AFC Divisional Playoff game Saturday at Gillette Stadium in
Jacksonville comes into the AFC Divisional playoff game fresh off a
narrow, 31-29, victory over Pittsburgh last weekend. The Jags nearly
gave up an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter versus the Steelers,
only to rally for a late field goal to win the game and set up their
chance to be the team to knock the Patriots off their perch.
New England completed their undefeated regular season with a fourth
quarter comeback of their own, rallying for a 38-35 victory over the
New York Giants in the finale December 29th. The Patriots will need
three more wins to reach their ultimate goal a completely
undefeated 19-0 season and another Super Bowl Championship.
Oddsmakers in Las Vegas opened the game with the Patriots as an 11-
point favorite, with a 48.5-point total.
New England quarterback Tom Brady was named the NFLs MVP, and with
the season he had its hard to imagine a quarterback ever playing any
better than he did in 2007. Brady passed for 4,806 yards and broke
the single season touchdown record with 50 touchdown throws, all
while being remarkably efficient with the football (68.9 comp. %, 8
INTs, 117.2 passer rating). Receiver Randy Moss (1,493 yds., 23 TDs)
is his favorite target, but he is by no means the only weapon at
Bradys disposal. Running back Laurence Maroney gives the Pats a
solid running game and the balance allows them to be the NFLs top-
ranked offense in just about every single category (411.2 total ypg
1st; 295.7 passing ypg 1st; 36.8 ppg 1st).
Jacksonvilles offense has been one of the biggest surprises in the
NFL this season. Quarterback David Garrard was given the starting job
just one week before the regular season started (when they cut Byron
Leftwich) and he has responded with a solid season overall. Garrard
(2,509 yds., 18 TDs) isnt spectacular, but extremely efficient with
the ball (only 3 INTs all season), which has allowed the Jags to
finish 7th in total offense (357.4 ypg). Its no secret the Jags like
the run the ball, as they have two of the best running backs to give
it to with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. Both average about
five yards a carry, are capable of busting off a game-breaker at any
time, and propel the Jags to the 2nd best rushing offense in the NFL
Overshadowed by Brady and the offense, the Patriots defense is also
one of the top units in the NFL. Their 3-4 scheme finished 4th
overall in yards allowed (288.3 per game) and 4th in points allowed
with just a 17.1 per game average. Stopping the run could be
considered their biggest weakness, but at just 98.1 yards per game
allowed on the ground (9th in NFL) it can hardly be considered weak.
Expect strong safety Rodney Harrison to be near the line of scrimmage
versus the Jags running game, as the rest of the Pats secondary is
more than capable of stopping the pass when tested (190.2 ypg 6th).
The Jaguars also feature a solid defensive unit, but statistically
they fall closer to the middle of the pack in the NFL. They are 12th
overall in yards allowed (313.8 per) and 10th in points allowed (19
per), but those numbers don’t necessarily reflect how strong the unit
is as a whole. However, the Jags secondary is the weakest link (213.8
ypg 15th) in the defense, which will surely be tested over and over
again as Brady dissects them with his aerial attack.
These teams havent played one another since a 24-21 New England
victory back in 2006. The Patriots also beat the Jaguars in the 2006
playoffs (28-3) before losing to the Steelers in the AFC Championship
game (the year Pitt won the Super Bowl). New England covered the
number in both of those games, and has covered the spread in five of
their eight games head-to-head.
This season the Patriots have been a solid bet for sports bettors,
but their 10-6 ATS (5-3 ATS at home) record overall has taken a dive
lately as they failed to cover in five of their last six games. But
don’t be fooled by the slide, as the Pats have had to cover giant
numbers in those five losses (average spread of over 19.5 points).
The Pats are also an over machine, as you would expect with that
offense, going over the total in 11 of their 16 games.
Jacksonville has also been a cash machine for bettors this year,
going 11-6 ATS (6-2 ATS on the road). The Jags had covered in seven
straight games before resting players in their season-ending loss to
Houston and in their first-round game win at Pittsburgh (both ATS
losses). Again, betting over the total is also profitable as the Jags
went over the number in 12 of their 17 games so far this season.
Other betting trends worth noting: Jacksonville has gone over in 8
straight games as a road underdog, in 10 of their last 11 road games
overall, and in seven of their last 8 Saturday games. However, New
England has fallen under the total in 8 of their last 10 Saturday
games, and in 9 of their last 11 home playoff games.
The public is clearly in love with the Patriots story this season, as
the spread has already moved from its opening number of Pats -11 to
the Pats -13. The total has stayed at 48.5 though, as most bettors
are most likely waiting on the weather before wagering on the total.
New England is a whopping -720 on the moneyline, while the Jags are a
Badgers Pick: The key to this game is the Jaguars running game.
Everyone in the stadium, everyone in the world knows that the Jags
are going to try and milk the clock and keep the ball out of Bradys
hands with the ground game. I think the Jags can do it, but it still
might not matter as Brady can just chuck it up for grabs to Moss
every other play. Still, Im going with the recent trend of the Pats
winning but struggling to cover big numbers. Pats win in a 38-28
game, so take the over and the Jag plus the points.