3. Steven Jackson’s first Conference Championship Game
Although he’s been in the league since the first Bush administration, Jackson is playing in just his fourth postseason game. In fact, this is his first appearance in a Conference Championship Game. Jackson’s first Super Bowl is so close, he can practically taste it.
Jackson will play a central role in the Patriots’ efforts on the ground, as they simply don’t have another power runner in the backfield. The Patriots like to save Brandon Bolden’s energy primarily for special teams, and undersized James White is much more useful as a pass catcher out of the backfield. That leaves the bulk of the rushing workload to Jackson.
Thus far, Jackson has looked surprisingly explosive taking carries from Tom Brady. He’s hit the line of scrimmage with speed and ferocity. The Patriots need Jackson to have his best game as a Pat to this point—Brady throwing the ball 50 times is a formula for victory for the Broncos. Brady needs run support against the Denver pass rush.