The New England Patriots can clinch the AFC East Sunday with a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. A win guarantees the division crown and a home playoff game. The Jags won’t be an easy win for sure, especially if both Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren (both questionable) sit out again this week. The Pats have to try and contain Maurice Jones-Drew, the mighty mouse of the NFL. In addition, they face a QB who can scramble in David Garrard, which puts some added pressure on the defense. Garrard has the potential to be really good or be really bad, and the bad usually comes on the road or when the game is on the line (see last week’s game vs. Indy).
Offensively, if the Pats (and by Pats I mean Tom Brady) are firing on all cylinders, they should find success against the 23rd ranked pass defense in the NFL. The Jags’ pass defense might be a little weaker as well if Rashean Mathis (questionable) doesn’t suit up. Even if he does, his groin injury will limit his effectiveness. However, the Pats haven’t been firing on all cylinders lately and that may continue this week, especially if they can’t get the running game going. Speaking of the running game, former Jag Fred Taylor could return this week to face his former team. He’s also had a little back-and-forth in the media (and with the Jacksonville media) with coach Jack Del Rio. It’ll be a little more interesting if he plays for certain. Just like last week, I feel any big plays the Pats can connect will come off of play action. This requires the running game to get going, and even if Taylor plays, I think Laurence Maroney will continue his hard, decisive running. Now is not the time to move away from him and shake his confidence, Fred Taylor playing or not.
I think that Warren, Wilfork, and Taylor will all play this week due to the importance of the game, even if it’s on a limited basis. With a win this week, the Patriots can elect to sit these players next week in what would be essentially a meaningless game. But for it to be meaningless, winning this week is essential.
Prediction: Pats pull it off, 23 – 17