JACKSONVILLE – Each Saturday during the 2017 season, eight Jaguars experts – Rick Ballou, Tony Boselli, Frank Frangie, Jeff Lageman, Brent Martineau, John Oehser, Brian Sexton and J.P. Shadrick – will break down the following day's Jaguars matchup.
Up this week:
The New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, in the AFC Championship Game.
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
The Jaguars will win if:They can get to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. His right hand is now an issue. New England will try to run. If the Jags stop the run, they win.
The Patriots will win if:Brady is healthy. The Patriots have played in seven consecutive AFC Championship Games. If Brady can pass, New England will be tough to beat.
As Ballou sees it:Jaguars, 21-20: A defensive touchdown and the Jaguars are able to have a good balance of passing and running with rookie running back Leonard Fournette.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
The Jaguars will win if: They harass Brady, plain and simple. That is the formula, maybe the only formula, with which to beat New England. If Brady has a clean pocket and time, the Patriots are going to win. But if Jacksonville can move him off his spot – hit him, chase him, make him uncomfortable – I like their chances. Offensively, the Jags have to be creative early – throw early – as they did against the Steelers.
The Patriots will win if:They protect Brady, get a lead and then stuff the run. The Jags win when they pass on their own terms; they tend to struggle when they fall behind and have to pass.
As Frangie sees it:This one will be tough. The Jags are playing the greatest quarterback and coach of all time, and neither has shown much sign of slowing down. But the teams that DO beat the Pats are built like the Jags: fast, physical defensive front; good man-to-man cover guys on the back end. It sounds crazy, but I like their chances. If they defense really affects Brady – really makes him uncomfortable -- we could be looking at the biggest day in team history.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
The Jaguars will win if:Their defense starts strong and finishes strong. The Patriots are all about Brady and his ability to spread the ball to all eligible receivers. Brady's rhythm must be disrupted with every aspect of good defense. Pressure, hits, and coverage will make a man feel his age.
The Patriots will win if: If they can force the Jags' offense into playing the style they don't like to play – and that is from behind. The Jaguars' offense likes to be balanced and some early scores by a G.O.A.T quarterback would make it difficult for the Jags to play their game.
As Lageman sees it:The Jaguars will play defense like they are capable of and pressure Brady, ending their quest for a sixth ring. The Miami Dolphins' defense made Brady look like a mere mortal without Gronk. The Jags defense will do the same to Brady with Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The Jaguars will win if:They score 27 or more points. As much as this game is about stopping Brady, it's about controlling the ball on offense. The Jags need another clean game from a turnover standpoint and staying on schedule with the chains. The Jags were eight of 12 on third downs last week, and they need to be good again on that down.
The Patriots will win if: Brady can find the matchups that lead to chunk yardage. Last week, it wasn't the touchdowns that bothered me as much as the big plays in the middle of the field against the Jags' defense. If the Patriots backs and quick receivers shake defenders and break tackles, it will be a long day for the Jaguars.
As Martineau sees it:I don't know why, but I feel better about this game than I did about the Pittsburgh game. That doesn't make much sense in my own mind, but I have a feeling the matchups in this game favor the Jags on a lot of levels. Brady is unbelievable and negates a lot of those feelings, but maybe the Jaguars are just better. This team is playing with confidence and it feels like the ride is going to continue. It's another upset for the Jags.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The Jaguars will win if:They run offensively and pressure Brady. The Jaguars' offensive line had a Super Bowl look against Pittsburgh Sunday, holding the Steelers without a sack and getting more push in the run game than it had in a month. The unit must get close to that level Sunday. But the key is the Jaguars' pass rush. If Brady is bothered and hit a lot, the Jaguars will win.
The Patriots will win if:They protect Brady and force turnovers. We covered the need to protect Brady in the previous paragraph and that's the most important factor in this game. But beyond that, the Jaguars must win the turnover battle. That's key any week, but it's particularly important against the Patriots.
As Oehser sees it:The Jaguars' pass rush, secondary and speed defensively gives them a far better chance to win than most observers believe. If the Jaguars' offensive line plays well enough for them to function offensively, the Jaguars will win this game.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The Jaguars will win if: They can run offensively. You saw what Fournette and Company did against the Steelers – who were determined to stop him – and how it opened up the passing lanes. The Patriots aren't as good against the run as the Steelers, and they struggle against the pass even more. The Jaguars need to score and need to consume the clock; the best way to accomplish both is to be able to run so they can play to the weakness of the New England defense.
The Patriots will win if:Brady is comfortable in the pocket. If Tom has time, no one beats him.
As Sexton sees it:This is another great matchup for the Jaguars. It may even be a better matchup for them than the Steelers, because there are few game-changers on the Patriots defense – and those are in the secondary. I can lay out all kinds of matchups and scenarios that point to a Jaguars victory, but this game is too big and the Patriots too accomplished to make a prediction. All I can say, write or think is this is the Jaguars' best chance ever to beat a quarterback they've never beaten. I can't wait to see if this team is as good as I think it is.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com reporter/editor
The Jaguars will win if:They win the turnover battle, and cash in points off any takeaways they get from the Patriots. Get a little pressure on Brady – as Jaguars defensive tackle Marcell Dareus said this week, be "that gnat" in his face all game – and he might give this defense a couple of chances at takeaways. Run the ball, too. The Patriots have struggled in run defense at times this season.
The Patriots will win if: The Jaguars' running game goes away and the Jaguars' offense turns it over. If Bortles struggles to find some early confidence and the Jags cannot run, the Patriots will have them right where they want them.
As Shadrick sees it:This is a Jaguars team overflowing with confidence after victories in two different ways in the postseason. The Patriots are in their seventh consecutive AFC Championship Game, Belichick and Brady have five Super Bowl rings and this game in in Foxborough in January. The Jaguars might not know what they don't know going in there, but – frankly my dear, they don't give a damn. Why not pick this Jaguars team to knock off one of the great dynasties in all of sport? They will not be intimidated and just might pull this thing off.