AFC Championship Game Tale Of The Tape: Jacksonville Jaguars At New England Patriots

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 14: Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs with the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half of the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Heinz Field on January 14, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 13: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks for a pass during the AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Tennessee Titansat Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
  • Quarterback
    The improvement of Blake Bortles is one of the main reasons the Jaguars won the AFC South title and have taken two playoff games. Bortles was a liability before this season, but his ability to make plays with his legs and do a decent job on short and medium-range passes has become an asset for head coach Doug Marrone. Bortles refused to succumb to pressure in the playoff win vs. Pittsburgh.
    The Patriots are going to have a major advantage at quarterback in this game—and the Super Bowl, if they get that far. Tom Brady has had another remarkable season with a 66.3 completion percentage while passing for 4,577 yards and a 32-8 TD-interception ratio. Brady had three more TD passes in the divisional playoff win vs. Tennessee, and it would be a surprise if he didn’t do that against Jacksonville.
  • Offense
    The Jaguars may have put 45 points on the board in a remarkable display against the Steelers, but they do not want get into a scoring contest with the Patriots. The Jaguars have a strong running back in rookie Leonard Fournette, who is coming off a three-TD effort, and he can help Jacksonville control the clock. Keelan Cole and Marqise Lee are competent wideouts who can get open and make key plays.
    The Patriots are a talented offensive team, but the reason they are difficult to play is that they have so many options that can take charge at any time. Dion Lewis ran for a team-high 896 yards and six touchdowns, while tight end Rob Gronkowski is the best player at his position in the league. Brandin Cooks has the speed to go deep and Danny Amendola can get open on third-down plays.
  • Defense
    The Jaguars gave up 42 points to the Steelers in the divisional playoffs, but their overall defensive play is the key to their success this season. The Jaguars’ identity is best exemplified by pass rushers Calais Campbell (14.5 regular-season sacks) and Yannick Ngakoue (12.0 sacks), who will try to overwhelm the New England front with pressure. Jalen Ramsey is an outstanding cover corner.
    The Patriots may rank 28th in yardage allowed, but they are a much-improved defensive team after an awful start to the season. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is not concerned with yardage given up between the 20’s, and he is only concerned with points allowed. The Pats have allowed 17 point or less in 11 of their last 13 games, and they had 8.0 sacks in the win over Tennessee.
  • Special Teams
    The Jaguars are going to have to take it up a level here if they hope to stay with the Patriots. Jaydon Mickens (hamstring) may not be available, and if he can’t play, the Jags are missing a big return threat. PK Josh Lambo has made 21-of-22 FG attempts, and that includes 2-of-2 in the postseason.
    The Patriots always have one of the best coverage teams in the league, and Matthew Slater excels at making hard tackles that keep opponents in check. PK Stephen Gostkowski made 37 of 40 FG attempts this season, including 4-of-4 from 50 yards and beyond.
The Jags were basically overlooked against Pittsburgh but came up with a huge win. They are huge underdogs here and would need to take the ball away three times to come up with the win even though Ramsey has promised a Super Bowl victory.