Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots: AFC Championship Preview

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 27: Blake Bortles
FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 27: Blake Bortles /

It’s the Jacksonville Jaguars vs. the New England Patriots for a ticket to Super Bowl 52.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are traveling to Foxborough, Massachusetts to battle the New England Patriots in the championship of the American Football Conference, for a trip to Minneapolis to play for the Lombardi Trophy.

The Jaguars are in the conference championship a year removed from finishing 3-13. Jacksonville is in the midst of one of the biggest single-season turnarounds in NFL history, currently with 9 more wins than the team had in 2016.

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Standing in the Jaguars’ way from continuing this surreal journey to the ultimate destination is the New England Patriots. The Patriots are the defending champs, and hosting the AFC title game again as the number one seed.

New England is sitting on the throne in the NFL, and recent history has shown us it won’t relinquish the crown easily. But the Jaguars are ready to take their shot at the king, and have the talent to overthrow the hierarchy.

Can the Jacksonville secure the team’s first ever trip to the Super Bowl? A preview of the AFC Championship game:

The Jaguars will win if…

…they limit Rob Gronkowski‘s impact

Easier said than done, but an absolute must if Jacksonville is going to spring the upset for a second straight week. One of the most prominent storylines surrounding this matchup is how the Jaguars would choose to guard Gronk. Whether it was assigning Jalen Ramsey to cover, placing Myles Jack or Telvin Smith on him, or giving Tashuan Gibson the assignment, theories have swirled all week long.

Whatever strategy Jacksonville decides to employ will be a make-or-break decision. The Jaguars have to control Gronk as much as possible the entire game, and not even give him room to breathe on Sunday. It’s a daunting task, but a challenge that the young, fast Jacksonville defense has all the tools to be successful in achieving.

Rob Gronkowski is the lifeblood of the Patriots receiving corp, and will be Tom Brady‘s go-to guy on Sunday. It’s extremely difficult to completely eliminate the tight end from the game, but the Jaguars have the talent in the back-end of the defense to keep Gronk under wraps, which would be the catalyst to a Jacksonville win.

The Jaguars will lose if…

…Tom Brady gets time in the pocket

Let me preface this by saying Brady is not going to miss the game on Sunday. No way he doesn’t play, even with the mystery surrounding his hand injury.

Having said that, the goal against Brady is simple for the Jaguars- make him uncomfortable. The defensive line has feasted on getting after quarterbacks all season, and that cannot falter on Sunday. Get pressure, and prevent Brady from getting into any kind of a zone.

Tom Brady, even if not at 100%, is still Tom Brady. Jacksonville has to keep him flustered and under attack. Brady is one of the greatest to ever play the position, and when given time, will pick apart even the best defenses. If the Jaguars can’t get consistent penetration in the backfield, and disrupt Brady’s rhythm, the quarterback is going to make enough plays to win the game.


Offensive stat predictions

Blake Bortles: 17/28, 227 yards, 1 TD

Leonard Fournette: 26 carries, 111 yards, 2 TDs

Game Prediction

It’s Bill Belichick. It’s Tom Brady. It’s the playoffs. This goes without saying, but this game is really going to test the mettle of the Jaguars. The team has to play sharp from the opening kick. But Jacksonville is built like the exact type of team that can knock off the Patriots. The defensive line can get constant pressure on Brady, the secondary can lock down in coverage, and Leonard Fournette and the play-action passing game can wear down New England’s defense.

The Jaguars have the utmost respect for the Patriots, but don’t mistake that for fear. Jacksonville is not coming into this game with any intimidation, as that’s how it should be with the amount talent they themselves bring to the table.

Neither team is going to lead by more than seven, and the game will come down to the final moments, as expected. But the Jaguars have the formula, and will execute it to an AFC Championship. Yes, you read that correctly, the Jacksonville Jaguars will punch a ticket to the Super Bowl.

Jaguars-24, Patriots-20