Who: Jacksonville Jaguars (12-6) at New England Patriots (14-3)
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
When: 3:05 p.m. Sunday
What: AFC Championship Game
Spread: Patriots (-7 1/2) U/O: 46
Why to Watch:
It obviously, needs no more build up. A bid to Super Bowl LII is at stake for the defending champion Patriots and the upstart Jaguars. While New England is playing in its seventh consecutive AFC Championship Game, it’s only the third ever for Jacksonville, and the first since January of 2000.
The Jaguars are fresh off their AFC Divisional Round upset of Pittsburgh 45-42 a week ago and their confidence is sky high. The Jags boast an outstanding defense and rookie RB Leonard Fournette (above) is the real deal.
Meanwhile, there is still uncertainty over the right hand/thumb injury that Pats QB Tom Brady suffered Wednesday in practice. And, it only adds to the drama come kickoff of this one.
Will the Patriots make their eighth Super Bowl of the Brady/Bill Belichick era or can the 2017 Jaguars make franchise history by advancing to Minnesota in two weeks?
Also, obviously, how effective can Brady be against the Jaguars ferocious rush?
If the thumb injury is truly bothering him, that will show up, immediately. This is especially since, the Jaguars will likely be able to get pressure constantly with their front four defensive line without blitzing and make Brady get rid of the ball quickly and decisively.
The Jaguars had two sacks, including a fumble return TD and another interception of Ben Roethlisberger a week ago. They finished second in the NFL in sacks in the regular season and will look to not only pressure but hit Brady early and often.
Now, even if Brady’s thumb is bothering him, he should be able to throw quickly and accurately on the Patriots bread and butter short passing routes, if there are open targets. That means that corners Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye and others will be tested early on tight coverage of the likes of Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, and Chris Hogan.
Can Brady make the throws? Will the Jags pass rush let him? It’s almost time to find out.
That’s the number of non-offensive touchdowns the Jaguars have scored this season, through last week’s second playoff win against the Steelers.
And in that game at Heinz Field, Dante Fowler sacked Roethlisberger and Telvin Smith picked up the fumble and ran 50 yards to a touchdown. It was the seventh defensive score of the season of the Jags.
They also have scored this season on a Jaydon Mickens punt return touchdown bringing the total to eight extra TDs they’ve gotten.
Will the Jaguars be able to get another non-offensive score in this showdown with the Patriots?
If they do, it increases their win chances dramatically.
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