Jacksonville Jaguars (12-6 SU, 10-8 ATS) vs. New England Patriots (14-3 SU, 12-5 ATS)
AFC Championship Game
Date/Time: Sunday January 21st, 3:05 PM EST
Where: Gillette Stadium
by Mike M, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: JAX +9 / NE -9
Over/Under Total: 46.5
In the first of the conference championship games on Sunday, the Patriots and Jaguars meet at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro to decide who will go on to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl on February 4th to take on the winner of the Vikings vs. Saints NFC Championship game. New England has gone 10-1 against Jacksonville in their eleven past meetings, including a 3-1 mark in the postseason with their only loss coming back in the 1998 Wild Card round when Drew Bledsoe, Terry Glenn and Ted Johnson were all out due to injury.
The Jaguars were able to advance after beating a vastly overconfident/undisciplined Steelers squad 45-42. Jacksonville did not hold back on their postgame comments saying how disrespected and thus fired up they were after listening to Pittsburgh players (and their overrated head coach who is just 3-6 in his last nine playoff games) consistently overlook and dismiss their team, an attitude which makes even less sense considering that the Jaguars had already pummeled them in Pittsburgh earlier in the season. As much as LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown may be at the top of their positional rankings amongst all NFL players, their unceasing examples of stupidity and overall lack of professionalism is something that will continue to haunt the team and unfortunately for Steelers fans tip the scales in a negative way as to just how valuable either player is considering the detrimental effect their behavior has had on their team when it has mattered most in recent years.
The strength of the Jaguars team is undoubtedly their defense, which is chock full of talent and ended their regular season ranked 1st in yards per game, 1st against the pass and 2nd in points allowed. Two players earned 1st Team AP All-Pro recognition, Calais Campbell and Jalen Ramsey, and its easy to see why considering Campbell was second in the league in sacks with 14.5 and Ramsey continuing to cement himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the league. While those two are undoubtedly important to their teams statistical success, there are many integral parts to the Jags defensive makeup that helped finish the year ranked second in sacks, interceptions and takeaways, including; Yannick Ngakoue (12 sacks), Malik Jackson (8 sacks), Dante Folwer (8 sacks), Telvin Smith (102 tackles), Myles Jack (90 tackles), AJ Bouye (6 interceptions) and Barry Church/Tashaun Gibson (4 interceptions apiece). The success of their defensive has been has a direct effect on that of the whole team, as they are 8-2 this season when Campbell records a sack and 9-0 over his career when Malik Jackson gets one, and will be especially important against the Patriots as the Jaguars VP Tom Coughlin knows full well from his two times upsetting New England in previous Super Bowls thanks in large part of a monster effort from his front line.
Much like the Patriots opponent last week in the Titans, Jacksonville has a similar style of offense where they rely heavily on their running game and have a mobile quarterback that does not have a lot of wide receiver weapons at his disposal. Lead back Leonard Fournette is the focal point of their offense and the odds on favorite to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after compiling over 1300 yards of total offense and scoring ten touchdowns during the regular season (and an additional three against Pittsburgh), though the former LSU Tiger will be hoping to break a recent trend of success the Patriots have had against bigger power backs, including last weekend when they held Derrick Henry to just 28 yards on 12 carries. The Jaguars are 5-1 on the season when Fournette eclipses the 100 yard mark in a game and 6-3 when he gets into the endzone, though offensively he is not alone in the effect that his scoring has on teams success, as they are a combined 9-0 this season when receivers Keelan Cole, Marquise Lee or tight end Mercedes Lewis score a touchdown.
While Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles has regressed from his supposed breakout season of 2015 when he put up most of his stats in the 4th quarter when the team was already out of it, the amount of grief he repeatedly gotten through the media and fellow NFL players has gotten to the point of absurdity. There is no denying that Bortles has work to do to improve his game, but at the same time his team is playing for a spot in the Super Bowl despite losing easily their best receiving threat in week one to injury (Allen Robinson), and he can always point to his success inside the opponents red zone where he has thrown 19 touchdown passes and zero interceptions this season.
Unlike this weeks opponent, the questioning of talent at the quarterback position is not something the Patriots have had to worry themselves about at all (unless you count a loudmouth hypocrite from a failing sports network who apparently considers himself tough because he used to cover boxing rather than realizing he is instead an ignorant gutless coward who has admitted to hitting women in the past). It doesnt seem like a week goes past now without Tom Brady breaking another record or adding to one of his own, such as the win against the Titans being his 10th career postseason game with at least three touchdown passes, having ten more playoff wins than the next closer player (who happens to be Joe Montana) and now entering what will be his 12th conference championship game of his career, which is more appearances than every other TEAM in the league except for Dallas, Pittsburgh and San Francisco. If this weekend follows any sort of the past history he has had against the Jaguars, he will only be able to add to his records as Brady is 7-0 against Jacksonville in his career with a total of 17 touchdowns compared to only 2 interceptions and a completion percentage of 72%.
Another bit of questionable commentary of late regarding the Patriots has been when every time a call goes in their favor, that it is quickly followed by a nonsensical outcry that the NFL is favoring them when it comes to officiating. This might possibly make sense if only you entirely ignore what has happened since 2015 with Fuhrer Goodell and the witch hunt he led against New England while using the four letter sports network as his personal propaganda machine, and instead is just yet another example of their detractors inventing reasons for the Patriots inordinate amount of dominant success.
With the Patriots offense clicking and piling on points, an unheralded part of their game against Tennessee was the play of their defense, which registered a franchise record 8 sacks on the game and was able to take immediate control of the game once Titans right tackle Jack Conklin was lost to injury. The Patriots have a similar sack-to-success correlation as cited above regarding their opponent this week, as New England has won their last six straight games when Trey Flowers gets a sack and their last five in a row when Deatrich Wise records one.
Not to be out done, the Patriots offense continued some of their scoring streaks as well in their victory against the Titans. New England is now 9-1 in their last 10 when Chris Hogan gets in the endzone, 12-2 when Admendola scores (they are also 8-1 when he has 8 or more catches) and Rob Gronkowski made it 24 games in a row that they have won at home when he records a touchdown and 32-2 over his career. They were also able to keep their season long redzone success going as well, as they scored a touchdown on all five attempts deep in opponents territory, which is no surprise considering they finished the year ranked third in the league in redzone scoring percentage, and also the fact that Tom Brady has thrown 55 touchdowns compared to only 1 interceptions inside the 20 yard line over the past two seasons.
No matter what the distraction they have or will face, whether it be both coordinators Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia interviewing for head coaching positions around the league or whatever the latest is in the silly stream of articles coming out claiming conspiracies within or around or pretty much anywhere near the team, the Patriots have easily gotten past whatever the obstacle and now find themselves for the second straight week facing a lower seeded team than expected thanks a previous round upset. Through the first two rounds of the playoffs New England is the only favorite to have covered the spread (underdogs have gone 7-1), and playing at home with a chance of getting to and claiming their third Super Bowl title in the past four seasons, you can count on the Patriots to get the win and cover at Gillette on Sunday as they take one step closer to further cementing their Owner/Coach/Quarterback triumvirate as the greatest in NFL history.
Mike Ms Pick to Cover the Point Spread: New England -9 - Bet this game for FREE by taking advantage of a 50% bonus up to $250 at one of the web’s oldest and most trusted betting sites: BOVADA