Talk of a one-sided encounter in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game between New England and Jacksonville is wildly misguided. This Jaguars team is more than capable of preventing the Patriots from making their third Super Bowl in four years, writes Senior NFL Columnist, Chris Ross.
Ask most NFL observers who will win in the AFC Championship game, and you can be sure that almost every single one will tell you confidently that the Patriots are going to not only win, but dominate their underdog opponent. The thinking is that Tom Brady and Co. are simply too talented for even the feisty Jaguars defense to handle, and that Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville offense aren’t good enough to pick up the slack.
Throughout these playoffs, the Jaguars have been looked at as underdogs, yet here they are, one game away from the Super Bowl. It’s about time we start giving this team the credit they deserve. The Patriots are talented, but the fact is Jacksonville poses a very real threat and shouldn’t be counted out in this contest.
It all starts on the defensive side of the ball for the Jaguars. It’s no secret they have been one of the league’s best defenses this season and that has to continue against Brady and the Patriots offense. Luckily for Jacksonville, they have one thing that nobody else in these playoffs has possessed and that’s the ability to neutralize Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. Jalen Ramsey, the Jaguars second-year cornerback is one of the league’s most physically intimidating players at his position, and that size combined with his talent in coverage make him one of the few guys in the NFL that can theoretically neutralize Gronkowski.
Ramsey’s ability to match up with Gronkowski, combined with continued excellence from fellow cornerback A.J. Bouye should be enough to force the Patriots to rely on the running game. Fortunately, Jacksonville has the personnel to handle the rushing attack as well between their famed defensive line and an incredibly athletic linebacking core that has been solid against the run all season.
Don’t Overlook the Passing Game
As long as Jacksonville’s defense does its part, this game is ultimately going to come down to the Jaguars offense making plays. Running back Leonard Fournette is going to have a huge role in this one, but Blake Bortles needs to play well if his team is going to come away victorious. The Patriots are going to force Bortles to beat them with his arm, and despite all the negative attention he receives, he does have the requisite talent to put together a good enough performance for his team to pull off the upset.
All in all, the Jaguars, despite what many people seem to think, are a legitimate threat to knock the Patriots off in what promises to be a tough matchup. The Patriots are tough, but few teams matchup with them as well as Jacksonville. Certainly, New England is viewed as the favorites to advance to the Super Bowl, but let’s not overlook the Jacksonville Jaguars either.
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