JACKSONVILLE – Each week during the 2021 season, Jaguars experts – Rick Ballou, Frank Frangie, Jeff Lageman, Brent Martineau, John Oehser, Brian Sexton, J.P. Shadrick and Ashlyn Sullivan – will analyze the following day's Jaguars matchup.
Up this week:
The New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
The Jaguars will win if: They play a perfect game. The Patriots will be angry after losing two consecutive games. The Jaguars must fix their run defense to pull the upset after allowing the Jets 273 yards rushing last Sunday. Lawrence must get rid of the ball early with the Jaguars' offensive line uncertain.
The Patriots will win if: They do what they do. The Patriots have the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense. Weather has no effect on them; a month ago, they only passed three times in a victory over Buffalo. New England offers up so many different looks offensively; look for them to run often against Jacksonville.
As Ballou sees it: Covid issues will be a major factor Sunday. The Jaguars will be down several starters. New England has so much to play for, including the AFC East title. The Patriots are one of the most complete teams in football and should win their tenth game of the season.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The Jaguars will win: If they're plus-three. It's an absurd number for a team that has been plus-two giveaway-takeaway once this season. I don't think there is a reasonable expectation for this team to win on the road in New England against a team coached by Bill Belichick and fighting for its playoff position. If the Jaguars are plus-three, it means the Patriots are having a bad day and that's the best chance for the visiting team.
The Patriots will win if: They score on their opening drive. The Jaguars have lost seven consecutive games – and in all seven games, the opponent has scored on its opening drive. That seems like a solid formula.
As Sexton sees it: This is an eighth consecutive loss for the Jaguars. I'm reasonably certain the rest of the contributors to this column will say the same.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The Jaguars will win if: They pull the most-improbable upset of the NFL season – and in franchise history. The Jaguars must likely force multiple turnovers and score off those turnovers to get a lead, then force Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones into even more turnovers late in the game to have a chance.
The Patriots will win if: They play mistake-free, run effectively and play defense as they have throughout the season. If the motivated Patriots don't give away the game, it's hard to see an undermanned Jaguars team staying close.
As Oehser sees it: The Patriots under normal circumstances would be heavy favorites. With the Jaguars down numerous players – including running back James Robinson – this is far too big a task for the Jaguars.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The Jaguars will win if: They possess the ball for 10 more minutes than New England. The Jaguars must shrink the game with long, sustained drives and efficiency on third downs. The Patriots will likely run, too, so that might help the Jaguars. The play-calling in this game will be paramount given the Jaguars' potential issues up front.
The Patriots will win if: They score 20. That is the magic number against the Jaguars. Jacksonville did score 21 last week, but that was against the Jets. The Patriots' defense is a lot better, and I don't see the Jaguars scoring 20 or more. It's a simple formula for the Patriots in this one.
As Martineau sees it: The Jags are more than two-touchdown underdogs and rightfully so. This is a tough matchup even if the Jaguars were healthy. It's an important December game in Foxborough – and now the Jaguars have a bunch of COVID-19 issues. This one looks ugly on paper. It might look ugly on the field, too. The Patriots will win, 30-10.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com senior reporter
The Jaguars will win if: They get at least two takeaways and cash those takeaways in with touchdowns. The Jags are shorthanded, and they need all the extra possessions they can get.
The Patriots will win if: They establish the run. The Jaguars gave up the fourth-most rushing yards in a single game in franchise history last week.
As Shadrick sees it: The Patriots are building toward the playoffs, again. The Jaguars are rebuilding the organization, again.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
The Jaguars will win if: They can have a bit of a miracle and get some of their starters back from the COVID list – and perform at an exceptional level. The Jags the last two weeks faced opponents weakened with many starters out because of COVID and were unable to capitalize as the "healthier" team. Expecting them to win as the weakened team on the road is a tough ask.
The Patriots will win if: They play Belichick football, which is not beating yourself with mistakes and self-inflicted wounds. Belichick is the greatest NFL coach of all-time, and has done a great job preparing his teams for nearly every situation. The Patriots need this game to help clinch a playoff spot and they will be ready.
As Lageman sees it: This game will be interesting as two young quarterbacks lead teams headed in very different directions. Jones is a hometown Jacksonville product that has had a very good statistical year with a good team around him and is looking to build momentum to the playoffs after two consecutive losses. Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence is looking to find some momentum to take to an offseason that will have many questions and opinions about the direction of the Jaguars organization. The Jaguars team may also be scrambling to field a game-day roster with the COVID impact and this could make for a tough day in Foxborough.
Ashlyn Sullivan, Jaguars team reporter
The Jaguars will win if: I don't even know what to write for that this week. The Jaguars are dealing with COVID issues and their best playmaker, Robinson, is on injured reserve. The Jaguars' offense would have to play like we haven't seen them play all season to beat this Patriots team fighting for the playoffs.
The Patriots will win if: Their pass defense plays as they have all season and Jones gets momentum. The Jaguars have not been able to pull themselves out of a hole all season; once the opposing team gets going, they haven't been able to fight their way back and win. I foresee the Jaguars' offense and Lawrence having a tough time passing Sunday. That leaves running back Dare Ogunbowale to get the running game going, and that was never supposed to be Plan A.
As Sullivan sees it: This could get ugly. The plan entering Sunday is for Lawrence to start, but the Jaguars' offensive line will be impacted by COVID. The Patriots will most likely blitz beyond belief with this setup. If your franchise quarterback is put in a situation where it gets sticky, get him out of there. Lawrence is the most important piece to this team and a win over the Patriots doesn't save your season. Don't risk the future for this game.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
The Jaguars will win if: They can build on some growth in the passing game last week and reduce the countless mistakes they continue to make in areas such as special teams. They have allowed a kick-return touchdown two consecutive weeks, which is unheard of in the NFL. They continue to make key mistakes such as penalties, confusion in communication, etc. They must reduce that.
The Patriots will win if: They bounce back from two poor performances, stuff the run and make Lawrence pass off schedule. Pass rush will be key here, too. The Jaguars protected Lawrence better last week than they had in recent weeks. And New England wants to run the ball and play physically – similar to the way the Tennessee Titans beat the Jaguars a few weeks ago in a low-scoring game.
As Frangie sees it: This is a tough one. The Patriots have a good team, a physical team. They are coming off back-to-back losses and need this game badly. I see a low-scoring game. The key: Can the Jaguars possibly find enough points?