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AFC Championship Preview: I May Be Crazy, But the Jags Can Do It

By: Collyn Foster 1/18/2018

When I think of the Jacksonville Jaguars, I always think of a strong run game and watching them stink year after year. However, in 2013 they hired current GM David Caldwell and have been trending upward and making major improvements every offseason and especially this past offseason when they signed multiple big name free agents. This is partially the reason why I believe the Jaguars have what it takes to go into New England and beat the best modern day dynasty in sports. The Jaguars have been a pleasant surprise this season, finishing at 10–6, after finishing among the bottom of the league the past 6 seasons. They have vastly improved the past few seasons through the draft and free agency bringing in big names such as Calais Campbell, AJ Bouye, Barry Church, Branden Albert and Malik Jackson. They also drafted some absolute studs, such as Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Fournette, Telvin Smith, Myles Jack, and Cam Robinson and very good contributors such as Yannick Ngakoue, AJ Cann, TJ Yeldon, Dante Fowler, Aaron Colvin and Marqise Lee. I could go on and on about the talent on both sides of the ball on this roster, they are young and fast. The defense they have is one of the best in the NFL and finished in the top 3 in both scoring and yards this past season, and the offense has started to make a name for themselves running the ball and controlling the clock.

I think the Jaguars have a chance to pull off one of the biggest upsets in recent playoff history and take down arguably one of the best duos in sports history. [GH3] New England is a team that does not wow you on paper and do not have the talent to match the Jaguars on paper, but none of that matters when it comes to football nothing matters when you get on the field[GH4] . The Patriots are led by the best quarterback that this generation has ever seen in Tom Brady, but the Jaguars defense will be ready to meet this challenge. Even though the odds are stacked against them, they match up with the Patriots well. This game is going to be strength vs strength and weakness vs weakness. The Patriots obvious strong suit is Tom Brady and the offense, but the Jags have the defense to match up with the Pats across the board, with a strong front seven and a fast and instinctive group of DB’s. The Jaguars “weakness” would be the offense, but the offense seemed to be firing on all cylinders last week in Pittsburgh after putting up 45 points in a shootout with one of the best offenses in football.

Jags Offense vs Pats Defense

In order for the Jaguars to win this game, they need to control the clock and keep Tom Brady on the sidelines. They do a good job of that using their power run style to control the clock and own time of possession. To win at this time of year, teams need to do two things very well. Run the football and play good defense. If the Jaguars stand any chance of winning this game they need to unleash the beast. Let Leonard Fournette touch the ball 25–30 times and eat up as much clock as possible and keep Tom Brady on the sidelines. They also need to pick opportune times to attack the back end of the Patriots defense and effectively get their talented receivers involved. Effectively using the pass game will help the running game and in turn make the Patriots respect Blake Bortles arm so they can’t stack the box with eight men against Fournette. Jumping out to an early lead like they did last week against the Steelers would put this team in great position to do what they do best, run the ball and play good defense.

Jags Defense vs Pats Offense

This is far and away going to be the toughest task this defense has faced all year. You are going into New England, its Championship Sunday, which the Patriots are very familiar with, and they are coming off a blowout win against the Titans. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are some of the smartest minds football has ever seen and it’s impossible to stop them completely. As scary as it sounds, this defense Is going to have to force Brady to throw the ball. Letting Brady and the Patriots establish the run sets up their nearly unstoppable vertical passing attack. The Jaguars need to come out flying to the ball and take away the rushing attack and make Brady beat you with his arm. Turnovers are going to play a massive part in this game, more so than any other games. The Jaguars need to win the turnover battle and give their offense as many possessions as possible to keep Brady off the field.

At the end of the day, this is not going to be a cakewalk, but I have thought since the playoffs had begun that the Jaguars are the only team who I believe can go into New England and knock off the Patriots. They need to play to their strengths and stick to their game plan, because when you don’t that’s when Bill Belichick has you beat. There is one man who has taken down Brady and Belichick in the big game, and he’s done it twice, and he happens to be working in the front office of the Jaguars, that man is Tom Coughlin. Coughlin is the only coach to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl since the Brady/Belichick era began. Although this may not seem like a huge advantage, I believe this could give the Jaguars an extra edge in this AFC Championship. This game is going to come down to time of possession and turnovers, and the Jaguars have the pieces in place to win both categories, even though that doesn’t guarantee victory, it will put them in great position to pull off one of the best upsets of all time.

Final Score Prediction: 24–20 Jaguars

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