Why the Jaguars Can Shock the Patriots in the AFC Championship

The Jags are the NFL's Bad Boys and have a great shot at advancing to the Super Bowl.

The Jacksonville Jaguars hadn’t made the playoffs since 2007 and hadn’t reached the conference championship since 1999. Now, this upstart team is one win away from advancing to the first Super Bowl in their franchise history. There’s just one obstacle standing in their way — the New England Patriots. The defending AFC champions are currently nine point favorites, but in these playoffs, the upstart Jags have taught us to not sleep on them. Sunday’s AFC Championship game is going to be one hell of a fight.

Things appeared to be a bit shaky in the Wild Card round, as the 10-6 Jaguars could only muster up 10 points against the Buffalo Bills. Blake Bortles looked subpar and the defense was all they have to offer. This lackluster showing made them heavy underdogs as they traveled to Pittsburgh for the Divisional round matchup with the Steelers. That appeared to ignite a fire under the young Jaguars, one that not many saw coming. They jumped all over the Steelers early and despite a surge from the opposition, never trailed in the game.

Jacksonville knocked off the vaunted Steelers twice in one season? Oh yeah, they must be for real. Now, they have an opportunity to take down the Patriots for a second time this season. Granted, New England was without Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, but the last thing the Jaguars need is more confidence.

If Jacksonville plays like they did on Sunday in Foxboro, there is absolutely no reason they can’t give the Patriots the fight of their lives. They ran the ball effectively, behind Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon. The duo combined for 129 yards rushing, to go along with four touchdowns. Fournette is a physical runner, while Yeldon proved to be dangerous when catching the ball out of the backfield. Together, they could very well give New England’s questionable defense some fits.

While having a good day on the ground will keep the Jaguars in the game, the only way they can win this contest is if their defense outplays the Patriots offense. Now, that is easier said than done, considering Tom Brady is the man under center. No team in the NFL, other then maybe the Minnesota Vikings, has played better defense this season than Jacksonville.

Their secondary has been somewhat of a no-fly zone (with last week vs. Pittsburgh being an outlier). Led by All-Pro corners Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, the Jaguars have succeeded at limiting some of the better passing attacks in the league. They will have their hands full with New England but are well equipped to match up. Their run defense hasn’t been as formidable, but the Patriots’ backs are better as weapons in the passing game, which could bode well for the Jags. The deciding factor could be how well the Jaguars pass-rushers do at pressuring Brady. Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell are dangerous on the edge, and will need to put hands on Brady to get him out of his comfort zone. That’s how teams have been able to knock off New England in the postseason.

Success on the ground and stifling defense are just two of the three ingredients for a Jacksonville victory. The last ingredient is Blake Bortles. The Jags signal-caller has had one of the most up-and-down seasons, displaying inconsistency throughout. He isn’t a polished passer and relies rather heavily on his legs to make plays. But, he played a spectacular game against the Steelers in the Divisional round. If he can perform even close to that level, Jacksonville has a chance.

 

 

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