New England Patriots vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Pick
Patriots (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) vs. Jaguars (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS)
When: Sunday, September 16th, 4:25 PM
Where: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville, FL
By: Mike Mann., NFL Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Spread: NE -1/ JAX +1
In a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game, the New England Patriots visit the Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville for a late Sunday afternoon showdown. The Jaguars led the Patriots both at halftime and at the end of the third quarter in their previous matchup, but led by Tom Brady New England was able to score the last fourteen points of the game on their way to a 24-20 victory.
The Patriots have dominated the all-time series vs the Jags, going 11-1 over their 12 meetings. Jacksonville’s only victory in the series came back in 1999 in the AFC Wild Card round against backup quarterback Scott Zolak after than starter Drew Bledsoe was unable to play due to injury. Tom Brady is 8-0 lifetime against Jacksonville, with their recent matchup in Foxboro the closest game he has faced in the series in terms of difficulty.
Jacksonville hosts the Pats Foxboro fresh off a 20-15 road win against the Giants in New York. The game was close throughout and the special teams was able to put the game away thanks to a muffed punt by the Giants with under two minutes left. Unfortunately for the Jaguars they now face a big injury issue with star running back Leonard Fournette nursing a hamstring strain suffered in week one, leaving his availability against the Patriots a major question mark. This comes at a bad time for the Jacksonville offense, as not only is Fournette their focal point, but they were already dealing with issues prior to his set back thanks to a year ending injury suffered by top wide receiver Marquise Lee at the end of the preseason.
If Fournette is unable to play on Sunday, the team will again rely on backup T.J. Yeldon to step up in his place after posting 69 yards of total offense and a touchdown a week ago. Blake Bortles will look to continue his success from the AFC Championship game, when he was able to efficiently lead his team up and down the field against the Patriots defense for a large part of the game, but will likely need to improve on his passing efficiency after completing just over 50% of his passes and throwing for 176 yards with a touchdown and interception against the Giants. With Bortles favorite target Marquise Lee out, he will continue to look to build a rapport with Keenan Cole and Dede Westbrook after both posted at least 50 yards receiving versus the Giants.
Thankfully for Jaguars fans their defense has nary the issues the offense is facing and is still stacked to the brim with star players. The defense had 8 tackles for loss, 2 sacks along with a touchdown versus the Giants and was the major reason why the team was able to pull out the road win. The group including Myles Jack, Calais Campbell, Jalen Ramsey, Yannick Ngayoue, Malik Jackson and Tevin Smith ranks as one of if not the best unit in the league and should be firing on all cylinders when they face the Patriots in Foxboro on Sunday.
While the Jaguars had a struggle on their hands in getting past the Giants, the Patriots had little issue getting past the Texans 27-20 in a game that the final score makes it appear a lot closer than it really was. The New England defense was able to bottle up Deshaun Watson all day long and forced him into the worst performance of his professional career so far. That along with some questionable decisions from Texans head coach Bill O’Brien was easily enough to eliminate the Texans from any chance of competing in the game. The return of linebacker Dont’a Hightower made an enormous difference for the Patriots, as evident by his first quarter fumble recovery, while unheralded lineman Trey Flowers continue his stellar play with 1.5 sacks and a tackle for loss as he routinely spent time in the Texans backfield disrupting their running game.
Some expected the Patriots offense to run into issues against a tough Houston defense considering their lack of wide receiver depth, but that didn’t prove to be problem for Tom Brady and the team as they scored on all four red zone possessions on way to their easier than the score appeared victory. Rob Gronkowski and Phillip Dorsett each had 7 receptions apiece while the backfield led by James White contributed 10 receptions combined. Rex Burkhead paced the running game with 18 of their 31 carries and will likely be relied upon even more with backup Jeremy Hill lost for the season due to an injury suffered against the Texans. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots go about their offensive game planning against such a tough test, especially considering how much the Jaguars had their number through 3+ plus quarters of last years’ AFC Championship Game.
The biggest question entering Sunday’s matchup is the health status of Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette. He will likely be questionable on the injury report, so even if he does play there is no doubt that he will not be at the usual 100% level that he brings to the table. That combined with the already loss of Marquise Lee could spell serious trouble for a shorthanded Jaguars offense no matter how well their defense plays will likely still have a difficult time matching points with the Patriots. Yes they do have the revenge factor on their side after blowing the AFC Championship Game, but keep in mind the Falcons had the same revenge factor against the Patriots after blowing Super Bowl LI but that did them no good as they were easily topped by New England last season. The line for this game opened at even, jumped as high as 2 and has since leveled off at 1. Take the Patriots with confidence to get the road win and cover at Jacksonville.
Mike’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: New England -1