JACKSONVILLE – Each Saturday during the 2018 season, nine Jaguars experts – Rick Ballou, Tony Boselli, Frank Frangie, Jeff Lageman, Brent Martineau, John Oehser, Brian Sexton, J.P. Shadrick and Ashlyn Sullivan – will break down the following day's Jaguars matchup.
Up this week:
The New England Patriots at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
The Jaguars will win if: Running back Leonard Fournette is healthy. Houston ran for 170 yards against New England last week, and the Jaguars have a better offensive line than the Texans. The Jaguars should also be able to pass protect against New England to allow quarterback Blake Bortles to make some key plays passing.
The Patriots will win if: Jacksonville has trouble with Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. The Jaguars should be able to stop the run and have success with New England's wide receivers. If the Jaguars stop Gronk, they will win. If quarterback Tom Brady and Gronk are on, the Pats are unstoppable.
As Ballou sees it: Jacksonville, 17-16. Expect a low-scoring game in which both defenses are dominant. Sacksonville will get to Brady four times and the Jags will improve to 2-0.
Tony Boselli, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars left tackle
The Jaguars will win if: They stay aggressive on offense and consistently keep Brady uncomfortable in the pocket. The Jaguars had opportunities in the AFC Championship game in January to finish the Patriots off but never delivered the knockout blow. You must pressure Brady for four quarters and not allow him to get in any kind of a rhythm.
*The Patriots will win if: *They keep the Jaguars behind the sticks. Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick's goal will be to take away the run game and force the Jaguars into a one-dimensional game plan.
As Boselli sees it: The Jaguars will stay balanced offensively, limiting bad-down-and-distance situations and allowing them to control the tempo. They will dominate time of possession, keeping their defense fresh and giving them the ability to get after Brady for all four quarters. The Jaguars will win, 27-21.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
The Jaguars will win if: They control the ball on the ground, take some time off the clock and harass Brady in the pocket. The teams that get to Brady generally have the best chance to beat the Patriots. The Jags must get there to get him off his spot to collapse the pocket.
The Patriots will win if: They protect Brady and control the Jaguars' running game. They want to make Jacksonville throw on the Patriots' terms.
As Frangie sees it: I like the good guys in this one. The stadium will be amped. Really amped. The Jaguars have waited a long time for this one. Jacksonville will make Brady very uncomfortable and win a close one.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
The Jaguars will win if: They are able to pressure Brady consistently throughout. The Patriots lost Jeremy Hill, their best "running" back, last week to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Rex Burkhead, who is the next best running back, sustained a concussion. More pressure will fall on Brady and no quarterback in the league does a better job of making you cover every blade of grass on the field when he is given time. New England arguably has the NFL's best offensive line coach in Dante Scarnecchia, but the talented Jaguars defensive front needs to show the deficiencies in talent on that Patriots offensive line.
The Patriots will win if: Their defense can force Bortles into turnovers. The Patriots do a great job of eliminating what teams do best and we know what the Jags do best on offense. Without a strong running game, more pressure falls on the quarterback. Even if Fournette plays, it will be tough facing the Patriots, who have improved their defensive front in the offseason by acquiring defensive tackle Danny Shelton and defensive end Adrian Clayborn. The Patriots do not have a named defensive coordinator, but have a guy by the name of "Bill" who knows a thing or two about that side of the ball.
As Lageman sees it: The Jaguars will win in one of the best environments in Jacksonville Jaguars history. The Jaguars' coverage will be tight and frustrate Brady, allowing ends Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler Jr. and tackles Malik Jackson and Marcell Dareus to share the smell of their cologne. Special teams will play a big part as well with rookie punter Logan Cooke showing significant improvement from his first game as a pro and making long fields for Brady.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The Jaguars will win if: Bortles is plus-two in touchdown/interception ratio. The Jaguars need to be aggressive and go get this game. Think back to the Seattle game last December when Bortles came out throwing. The Jags need more than 24 points to secure a victory, and that will take throwing the football and throwing it well – with or without Fournette.
The Patriots will win if: They can protect Brady. There isn't a secret recipe on how you beat the Patriots. You either hit Brady and have a chance, or he tears you up. That has been a fact for almost two decades. The Jaguars have the NFL's best defensive front and should be able to move Brady off his spot and hit him. The Patriots did a nice job against the Texans' defensive front last week, but they are getting ready to play the best front in the game.
As Martineau sees it: When the schedule came out, I picked the Patriots to win this game. I've changed my pick. This game just means more to the Jaguars than it does to the Patriots. The energy in the city is real, the belief in the locker room is high and the will to win this game feels like it carries more importance than any of the other 15 contests. Sure, the Jaguars still must play well to beat this dynasty, but they are the better football team. The rosters are not even close. Of course, Belichick and Brady balance that, but not Sunday. The Jaguars will beat the Patriots and send a statement to the NFL.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The Jaguars will win if: They force more turnovers than they commit. The Patriots are overwhelmingly difficult to beat if they win the turnover battle (143-15 under Belichick); they're very beatable when they lose it (37-42 in the same era). The Jaguars can win that statistic if they pressure Brady relentlessly and protect the ball offensively. Look for that to be the focus of the game plan.
The Patriots will win if: They can pressure Bortles as they did Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson last week. If the Patriots have enough pass-rushing opportunities to harass Bortles in the pocket it will mean the Jaguars' running game isn't working. That's not the sort of day that favors the home team.
As Oehser sees it: If the Jaguars force an early turnover, they will win – possibly big. If they get behind early, they could be in trouble. The guess here is the former happens Sunday.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The Jaguars will win if: They can run. Belichick removed the Jaguars' running game from relevance in the fourth quarter in January and the Jaguars' offense stalled. Fournette's hamstring notwithstanding, the Jaguars must be able to run. If the offensive line plays better in Week 2 than it did in Week 1, the Jaguars should be able to set their tempo with reserve running backs T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant. If they can run when they want to or need to run on Sunday, Bortles has a shot to play as well as he did in the AFC Championship Game – which the Jaguars need.
The Patriots will win if: Brady has time to stand in the pocket and call his shots. On that critical third-and-18 in the fourth quarter in January, the Jaguars generated no pressure and Brady kept his team's hopes alive with a huge play. You can't expect any defensive back to cover a receiver or tight end indefinitely; there must be an effective pass rush on Sunday.
As Sexton sees it: The Jaguars have a better roster than the Patriots, but Brady does more with less than any player in league history. The Jaguars dominated the AFC Championship Game until the fourth quarter, and Brady still found a way to win with a bum thumb and without Gronkowski. The Jaguars will have to play a nearly perfect game to beat Brady, and he won't necessarily have to. He's that good.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com reporter/editor
The Jaguars will win if: The defense can pressure Brady. I feel like we've heard this before. The Jaguars must get him off the spot, which means pressure from the interior of the defensive line to push him around or out of the pocket for the edge rushers. Get a strip-sack takeaway or two and that would be even better.
The Patriots will win if: The Jaguars cannot find a consistent down-the-field attack. The offense lost some juice last week when Fournette left the field, but the Jaguars must find a run-game threat if he is unavailable to bring another player in the box and loosen things up on the back end of the defense. Stay on the field on offense, get that lead into the fourth quarter and then stay on the field to kill the clock and win the game.
As Shadrick sees it: It's hard to find a more meaningful Jaguars regular-season game in at least a decade. The Jaguars cannot overcome the AFC Championship Game loss in January with one regular-season victory. They can only move to 2-0 and solidify themselves as contenders in the AFC this season. Still, they – and certainly the fans – can exorcise some demons from January on what could be an all-time memorable day at TIAA Bank Field. Jaguars 24, Patriots 23.
Ashlyn Sullivan, Digital reporter and host
The Jaguars will win if: The offensive line steps up. The Jaguars had trouble running the ball during the preseason; that all starts with the offensive line. In order to create offensive momentum and get the ball moving down field, the offensive line needs to play with intensity for the running game to be successful.
The Patriots will win if: They win the turnover battle. The Jaguars need to get the ball out of Brady's hands in order to give themselves a chance and get the ball back to the offense.
As Sullivan sees it: This could be the Jaguars' toughest game of the 2018 season. The lack of offensive production so far for the Jaguars makes me wonder how they will match up against the Patriots' defense. The stakes are not nearly as high as they were last year if the Jaguars do not come out on top this game.