AFC East

CK’s Patriots @ Jaguars – A Highly Biased Game Preview Copy

CK’s Patriots @ Jaguars – A Highly Biased Game Preview Copy
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In a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game, the New England Patriots head south to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars.  This will be the 13th time these teams have met with the Patriots having the all-time series lead at 11-1.  This includes 5 postseason meetings with the Patriots having won 4 of those games including last year’s Championship Game matchup.
 
The Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) enter this game having beat the New York Football Giants last week 20-15.  In that game, the Jaguars led 20-9 early in the 4th quarter only to have the Giants comeback and threaten to take the lead late in the 4th Quarter.  For the Patriots (1-0), they hosted and bested the Houston Texans 27-20.  In that game, Patriots coach Bill Belichick got his 251st regular season win and passed Cowboys’ great Tom Landry for 3rd all-time in most regular season wins.
 
This is a pivotal early season matchup between AFC contenders that could easily prove to be the difference between who gets Home Field advantage in the AFC Playoffs come January so in yet another futile attempt to be non-bias and analytical, both teams were broken down in key areas to see how they will match up against each other and which one may have the key to a victory.
 
Quarterback – PATRIOTS:  While Blake Bortles had some success last season during the playoffs, his season opener last week was less than stellar from a passing perspective.  It will be interesting to see if the Jaguars end up regretting not trying to upgrade the QB position during the last off season. 
 
Running Backs – JAGUARS:  Neither teams’ running backs did anything in Week 1 to clearly give them an edge in Week 2.  While Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette did not practice due to a hamstring injury, he should be available for the game giving the Jaguars the slight edge.
 
Wide Receivers – PUSH:  While the Jaguars’ wide receivers are limited by their quarterback’s ability to get them the ball, the Patriots are limited in depth and playmaking ability.
 
Tight Ends – PATRIOTS:  While Jacksonville did try to upgrade their tight end position with the addition of Austin Seferian-Jenkins, New England’s Rob Gronkowski looks like he’s poised to have a big season if he can stay healthy.
 
Offensive Line – PUSH:  Statistically both offensive lines are fairly even though the Patriots’ Offensive Line has a much tougher task on their hands on Sunday than the Jaguars do.
 
Defensive Front Seven – JAGUARS:  The Patriots spent the off season trying to quietly upgrade their defensive front seven group.  While there are signs that this unit is better than last year, the Jaguars are stacked with very solid playmakers at both the defensive line and linebacker level.
 
Secondary – JAGUARS:  The Jaguars have a loud, and boisterous group in their secondary and the talent to back up all of their talk.
 
Special Teams – PATRIOTS:  While statistically the both special teams groups put up similar statistics in week 1, the addition of Cordarrelle Patterson and his potential big play ability on special teams gives New England a slight edge.
 
Coaching – PATRIOTS:  While the Jaguars’ Doug Marrone has done a fantastic job resurrecting his career after being so unceremoniously dismissed by the Buffalo Bills, Bill Belichick’s knowledge and ability to prepare his teams on Sunday is second to none at this point.
 
 
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
 

 
 
Key’s to a Patriots Victory:
 
1) Stick with the Running Game:  While injuries have ravaged the Patriots’ running backs, New England needs to stay patient and continue to use the running game to help slow down Jacksonville’s pass rush.
 
  
 
2) Contain Blake Bortles in the Running Game:  Though it’s well known the limitations that Blake Bortles has in the passing game, he has become an effective runner who can move the chains when a passing play breaks down.  The Patriots need to stay disciplined on their rushes knowing that Bortles looks to run when there are opportunities.
 
3) James White Time:  With injuries at the wide receiver position, the Patriots need to lean on James White to create mismatches in the passing game.  Whether it’s lining up in the back field or on the line, New England needs to make an effort to get the ball into White’s hands as much as possible.
 
While it is still early in the season, this is a huge matchup in the AFC that surprisingly is not being played in Prime Time.  This game essentially will come down strength vs. strength:  New England’s offense vs. the Jacksonville’s defense.  At the end of the day, it will be key for the Patriots to move the ball consistently, make key 3rd down conversions, and try to play with a lead.  
 
Patriots’ fans should buckle up and expect a nail-biting, cursing at the TV, low scoring game where field position late in the game determines the outcome. 
 
The Knuckles Prediction:  Patriots 17 – Jaguars 16 

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