2008 NFL Playoffs: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots Preview and Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars +13.5, 49.5 O/U at New England Patriots -13.5, Foxboro, 8.00pm EST Saturday
by The Crazy Snake of Predictem.com

In the final few weeks of the regular season the Patriots mixed their form between mediocre and irrepressible. They scraped home half the time against seemingly ordinary opposition but when a certain member of a now eliminated team mouthed off in the week preceding their contest in Foxboro they duly came out and showed everyone why they were being spoken about as the best team ever.

Personally, I can’t even stand to enter the debate. I hate the suggestion that we would even try to line them up with the ’72 Dolphins or any other team, past or present. The jury is still out, however. They have 3 more hurdles to genuine immortality. They have a place reserved in infamy should they fall at the first hurdle, a match up with the Jacksonville Jaguars they simply have to win. If they should lose we will forever hear about the team that won every preseason game but failed when it really mattered. Any team that goes undefeated will then have to be reminded about what happened to the 2007 Patriots until they finally win their way out of that shadow.

But the Patriots’ path to perfection was, of course, no accident. They are some great minds backed up by some great footballing talent. Throw in some experience for good measure and you have all the ingredients for an unstoppable team force. Bill Belichick is the defensive master tactician. But when you consider that New England’s major offensive weapon, Tom Brady, has already been the starting quarterback in no less than 3 Superbowl wins in only 8 seasons as a starter it makes you realize just how tough this team is to beat. With two great minds, one on defense and another on offense they are just incredibly difficult to stop. Around them are such incredible weapons offensively and great experience and savvy defensively that it’s hard to find weakness, and so it has proven through 16 regular season games. To make matters worse, everyone knows the Patriots rise for the post season.

Enter the Jaguars, a team that gives themselves a chance of knocking off the might of New England. And why not! They have the kind of game that can trouble New England. If there is a way to beating the Patriots then surely the first step is to keep the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands. The Jaguars have Fred Taylor and Pocket Hercules to do just that through their running game with their usually reliable quarterback, David Garrard capable of playing the cameo. The rationale is that the Patriots’ linebackers are ageing and slowing and might struggle to contain such a potent 1-2 punch. That theory is all very well, but what was disturbing for me last week was how ineffective Garrard became and consequently how one dimensional that made the Jags. Garrard completed only 9 of 21 and threw 2 picks. Consider that he threw only 3 interceptions for the entire regular season and suddenly the alarm bells ring. What was it about the Steelers that caused things to turn like that? I have to say, one of those interceptions was the result of just a terrible decision and a poor throw on the part of Garrad. Sure he was under pressure, but Brady would never do that.

And that’s really what this game comes down to. Experience and decision making when it matters most. In that regard I know whose camp I would rather be in. 3 Superbowls in 8 seasons with statistically lesser teams and fewer offensive weapons…do I need to spell it out? Didn’t think so…

The Jaguars really have but one hope of beating the Patriots. They need to force Tom Brady to not be Tom Brady. I just don’t think they have the make up or the talent to achieve that. Sure, Paul Spicer is a great pass rusher, but he can’t do it all. Brady has so many options available to him. There’s just no way to double team them all. The Jaguars have some of the ingredients required to beat the Patriots, but unlike the Patriots they do not have the necessary ingredients to call themselves great.

And so, with that I think the result spells itself out clearly. The Patriots seem to find a way, no matter what comes at them. Be it 1 back or 2, 1 quarterback, 2 defensive ends, 3 linebackers or 4 defensive backs, 2 tackles, 2 guards, a fullback and a partridge in a pear tree, it matters not. The Patriots do not achieve their results with just the 11 guys on the field at any given time. They achieve their results by finding a way to make 11 guys add up to more than just 11 positions and some obscure bird in a fruit tree. They win with intangibles that handicappers like me struggle to come to terms with every single time we handicap a Patriots game. This one is no different. On handicap, I like the Jaguars, but I am not about to throw money at that. Because when a season is on the line there is only one team I want to be on and sadly, it isn’t the Jaguars.

The Snake’s Bite: Standard capping methods have me favoring the Jaguars slightly at the +13.5 but I think we are about to see what the Patriots can really do and I would prefer to see what eventuates here before I venture in. If you must have a pick then back the Patriots to cover 2 touchdowns. This game will blowout if Jacksonville gets too far behind and has to abandon the gameplan in favor of more expedient drives. Garrard showed some chinks last week and a repeat of that performance would see the margin widen in short order.