Five Reasons the Jacksonville Jaguars Could Beat the New England Patriots



By John O’Leary

As the NFL season slowly approaches Super Bowl 52, it’s become quite clear that not much has changed since last year. Not at the top, at least.

The scenery in the playoffs is certainly different. Three teams that didn’t crack the playoffs a year ago – the Eagles, Vikings and Jaguars – are all competing for a chance to get to the league’s finale.

Ahead of them as the Super Bowl 52 favorite at the top NFL betting sites, of course, remain the mighty New England Patriots.

Even a reported rift among the Pats’ Big 3 – Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Robert Kraft – hasn’t been able to slow New England down. Nor did the loss of stud slot man Julian Edelman before the season started, or rumored exits of the team’s top two coordinators.

The Patriots have met each obstacle this year with one swing of the bat, culminating in homer after homer and here they stand, once again, with a chance to get to the final game of the year.

As interesting as the idea of the Pats repeating and locking down a 6th title seems on paper, it’s far from set in stone.

The Jacksonville Jaguars plowed through the 2017 NFL regular season with a solid 10-6 record before winning two playoff games to get to their first AFC Championship setting since 1999.

Their path here has been relatively impressive, too. The offense didn’t show up in round one, but a defense known as “Sacksonville” held the Buffalo Bills to just three points in a win.

A week later, the offense ran all over the Pittsburgh Steelers and the defense made game-changing plays at the right time during a crazy 45-42 road win.

Some will suggest these first two playoff games exposed Jacksonville’s flaws, but there is enough evidence to believe they’re more that capable of moving past the Pats into Super Bowl 52.

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Here’s the five most compelling reasons why it just might happen:

The Patriots Aren’t Invincible

Reason number one might not even have anything to do with the Jags, really. How about the fact that it is really difficult to get to the Super Bowl – let alone try to do it two years in a row?

New England has to be exhausted. They stormed back from a 28-3 hole to win their 5th franchise title last season and they ran through another season where they held themselves to a very high standard.

In the midst of that, they lost some key players and this rift popped up.

If there’s any truth to it, if the eventual departures of their coordinators leaves an imprint or the grind finally catches up with them, they could end up being the reason for their own demise.

New England losing this game doesn’t have to be some negative self-fulfilling prophecy, though. It’s possible they’re just not as good as everyone thinks they are and that once met with a worthy opponent, an off day translates into a bad loss at the worst possible time.

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The Steelers Were Their Biggest Threats

Aside from the Pats potentially being their own worst enemy here, let’s consider the fact that all of their top threats are now gone.

The Jags are their last roadblock in the AFC playoffs, but that’s because Kansas City choked against the Titans and the Jags just went into Pittsburgh and slapped around the Steelers.

This could tell us the Chiefs and Steelers weren’t as good as the oddsmakers felt they were, or it could show that the Jags are the last threat standing for a reason.

Pittsburgh had probably the most dynamic offense in the entire NFL. Ben Roethlisberger was supposed to get back to the AFC title game and Le’Veon Bell certainly thought the Steelers would.

That didn’t happen, however. Now the Jags are here and New England’s would-be top challengers are scattered to the side like corpses in a Kill Bill movie.

Perhaps sports bettors should pay the Jags a little more respect for simply lasting this long.

After all, if some liked the Steelers to take down the Patriots and the Jaguars were the ones to beat Pittsburgh, then why should anyone be counting the Jaguars out?


Leonard Fournette is a Monster

If NFL fans forgot how good rookie running back Leonard Fournette is, they got a fun reminder last week during the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

The Jags rookie masher dropped three touchdowns on the Steelers, while gashing them routinely to the tune of 109 rushing yards. Fournette set the tone early on with a drive that gave the Jags a 7-0 lead they ultimately would never relinquish.

This wasn’t just a one-week wonder type of showing, either. Fournette played hurt for portions of his inaugural NFL campaign, yet put up over 1,300 total yards and 10 total touchdowns. It’s arguable Fournette was the reason why Jacksonville even got to the playoffs.

It’s true the Jags were lifted for much of the year by a stout defense, but without Fournette, there was no masking the frequently that challenged Blake Bortles under center.

There is still a case to be made against Bortles simply because he is still there, but Fournette is a punishing, game-changing talent. Whether he’s grinding out tough yardage, busting long gains or finishing off touchdown runs, he’s the catalyst for this team right now.


New England’s Defense Isn’t Elite

An even bigger issue beyond Fournette is the fact that – by the numbers, at least – the Pats don’t have a true answer for him.

Pittsburgh’s defense took a big hit once Ryan Shazier went down with a spinal injury, but New England hasn’t looked like a suffocating defensive unit really at any point in 2017.

That’s certainly been the case against the run, as the Pats started the year off in sluggish fashion right away in week one. Chiefs rookie rusher Kareem Hunt poured it on thick (250+ total yards, 3 TDs) and the defense simply never recovered.

On the year, the Pats rank just 20th at stopping the run. That’s bad news with this week’s matchup against Fournette and the Jags, who collectively ranked top in the league in rushing at the end of the regular season.

It doesn’t get a whole lot better elsewhere for the Pats defensively, either. New England finished the year ranked 30th against the pass.

Blake Bortles doesn’t strike a ton of fear into New England’s secondary, but that’s still a ranking that’s hard to ignore. Combine it with the Pats’ inability to consistently sniff out the run, and they may have some issues defensively against the Jags.


Jacksonville’s Defense Just Might Be

While the Patriots have some questions to answer on defense, Jacksonville has gotten the job done on that side of the ball all year.

Some would point to Ben Roethlisberger’s 5 scores and 460+ passing yards as the defense somewhat being exposed, but it’s closer to a glitch in the system.

That, or it was a product of game flow, with the Jags being up big and continuously extending their lead throughout the game.

The reality is the Jags have an immensely talented defense that is remarkably stingy against the pass (#1 in the NFL) and also ranked second in the league (55) in quarterback sacks.

There is an argument to be made against Jacksonville’s strength of schedule this year, but after showing up the Steelers at Heinz Field, it’s fair to say they’ve proven they belong.

Of course, there is one more interesting wild card here. Jaguars star cornerback Jalen Ramsey has virtually guaranteed this is the year of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Ramsey came out and stated with confidence that the Jags would topple the Pats and ultimately hoist the Lombardi Trophy when all was said and done.

That remains to be determined. However, as things stand, there is plenty of reasoning behind a potential Jaguars upset win. Even if they don’t end up winning, the Jaguars being dogged by nearly 10 points feels like a reach at the moment, or at the very worst, a colossal slap in the face.

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