JACKSONVILLE – Time yet again for the Quick Six …
Yes, it's Wednesday already. For the Jaguars this week that means it's time – past time, actually – to move past a huge victory over the Miami Dolphins at EverBank Field Sunday and look ahead to the team many believe is the best in the NFL.
That's the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
The Patriots are a difficult matchup whether they're defending a Super Bowl title or not. They're a smart, veteran team with a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback (Tom Brady), an all-time great head coach (Bill Belichick) and an elite skill-position player who may be redefining his position (tight end Rob Gronkowski).
That makes for a huge challenge for the Jaguars, and it will make for a slew of questions as the team gathers at EverBank Field to begin preparations.
Here's Wednesday's Quick Six:
1)Can the Jaguars handle success?The Jaguars responded in an impressive way Sunday, beating the Dolphins with a scrappy effort a week after a disappointing season-opening loss to Carolina. That was handling adversity in a big way. Now, the task is to play well back-to-back weeks.
2)Who is the real Blake Bortles?We asked this last week, and it remains a fair question. Bortles, after an opener in which he struggled at times, responded on Sunday with his best game in 15 NFL starts. He threw two touchdowns and had his first 100-plus passer rating. He looked like the same player who appeared significantly improved during the preseason. Can he be that player again? And can he do it against a Patriots defense that historically is very difficult on young quarterbacks?
3)Can the defensive line disrupt Brady?This isn't easy. The Patriots have allowed just four sacks this season, and Brady is very good at getting rid of the ball to negate pressure. Still, this is one of the huge keys Sunday. The Jaguars' defense took control of the Miami game with creative, timely fourth-quarter pressure. Difficult as it may be to do the same against Brady, it must be done.
4)Can the defense stop Gronk?Few players in the NFL can dominate a game in the way Gronkowski can, and there are few tandems as productive as Brady-Gronkowski. They have combined for four touchdown passes this season, taking advantage of Gronkowski's athleticism and power near the end zone.
5)Can the line protect Bortles?This is sure to be a question all season, and it's one the Jaguars' offensive line answered with an emphatic, "Yes" on Sunday. The zero sacks allowed to the Dolphins was key to allowing the best performance of Bortles' career. That will be more difficult against the Patriots and Belichick, but it will be just as necessary.
6)Can the Jaguars win?That's the overriding question every week, but they realistically may face no tougher tasks this season. The Patriots not only won the Super Bowl last season, they remain a motivated team after an offseason marked by the DeflateGate controversy. They're also playing at home. Any game is winnable in the NFL, but the Jaguars must play very smart and very mistake-free Sunday.