The Jacksonville Jaguars were playing with house money and looked like it when they went into Pittsburgh and knocked the Steelers out of the playoffs. With no expectations for success whatsoever, they’ll head into Foxboro looking to do two things they’ve never done before: Reach the Super Bowl and beat the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
Jaguars Playoff History
The Jaguars are back in the AFC Championship Game for the third time in their history. Interestingly enough, this is the second time Jacksonville has been in the league title game in New England, though the first occurrence was in the Bill Parcells/Drew Bledsoe days.
That said, there is at least a bit of historical precedent here. Jacksonville has never beaten the Pats in the regular season, but it does have a playoff win over the Patriots in 1998 to its credit. The Jaguars have also beaten the No. 1 seed on the road in the playoffs once in their history, that coming in 1996 when they toppled Denver at Mile High to reach their first AFC Championship Game.
Patriots Playoff History
Amazingly, this year marks the seventh in a row for New England playing in the AFC Championship Game. The team is 4-2 in the previous six, and it has a total of seven Super Bowl appearances in the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era.
The last three games the Patriots have played against AFC teams in the playoffs haven’t exactly been close. They trucked Tennessee 35-14 to get to this point, and that comes on the heels of beating the Steelers 36-17 and the Texans 34-16 in the playoffs last year.
New England has won seven straight playoff games at home and six straight contests at home against Jacksonville overall. All six of those victories against the Jaguars came by double digits, and the average margin of victory was a whopping 21.0 points per game.
Why Jacksonville Will Beat the Patriots
Jacksonville’s formula hasn’t deviated all season no matter who the rusher was in the backfield or who was on the opposing offense. The Jags have to run the ball and make the game as short as possible.
The Jaguars largely succeeded at that against Pittsburgh, though 21 fourth-quarter points allowed would tell a different story. The Jags made the stops they had to make, namely a strip-sack that resulted in a touchdown in the second quarter and a fourth-and-1 stop early in the fourth quarter when the Steelers were down just a touchdown and had all of the momentum on their side.
Leonard Fournette, who had three rushing touchdowns against Pittsburgh, has largely only had one good half of football here in the playoffs. He didn’t look the same after dinging his ankle in the second quarter, but he’ll have to be a 100-yard back against the Patriots to give Jacksonville an opportunity to win.
Why New England Will Beat the Jaguars
He’s Tom Brady. Do you really need any other reason than that to back the Patriots in this game?
Here’s another one: Blake Bortles.
Yes, Bortles made the big throw down the field to Keelan Cole that really put the Steelers away, but he’s largely been awful in these playoffs. He’s only 26-for-49 passing in the postseason, and though he hasn’t been picked off yet, he hasn’t had to play from behind either. When trailing this season, Bortles has completed 58 percent of his passes, is averaging 6.44 yards per pass attempt and has a 5-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Even though he looked good in the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh, Bortles had a 2-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio in the fourth quarter of games in the regular season. He also went just 23-for-51 for 206 yards with no touchdowns and five picks in the final frame of games with a lead or deficit of a touchdown or less.
Let’s remember, too, that there has only been one quarterback ever to beat the Patriots in a playoff game in his first season in the playoffs. That man was Jim McMahon, and the year was 1985. Super Bowl Shufflin’ was the thing all the cool kids in Chicago were doing.
Jaguars vs. Patriots Prediction
Sure, we didn’t talk a lot about the actual men in Patriots gear in this game, but our selection for this one really has nothing to do with the Pats and everything to do with Jacksonville. The Jaguars shot their wad last week, and they beat a team that:
A: Was never all that good in the first place.
B: Has always had a terrible time figuring out how to beat the Jags.
There’s a big difference between going into Pittsburgh and going into Foxboro, and the Jaguars are going to figure it out the exact same way the Titans did last week. This one won’t be close.
Jaguars vs. Patriots Pick: New England 38, Jacksonville 7
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