New England Patriots vs Jacksonville Jaguars: AFC Championship Game preview and prediction
By Hal Bent
Hidden Key To Game
The key to the game is the Patriots need to slow the Jacksonville pass rush and at the same time limit their turnovers.
The Jaguars’ defense was the definition of opportunistic. They were second to the Pittsburgh Steelers by one sack with 55 sacks in 2017. In addition, the defense was second in the NFL with 21 interceptions just one behind Baltimore’s 22. They were fourth in the league with 12 recovered fumbles.
Quarterback Tom Brady needs to mitigate the pass rush by releasing the ball quickly and moving in the pocket. The Patriots can make quick, short passes available to him by attacking the Jaguars’ defense at three levels.
The outside wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan need to attack vertically and drag safety Barry Church deep. With tight end Rob Gronkowski and slot wide receiver Danny Amendola attacking the intermediate areas of the field, they can pull the linebackers deeper and Amendola should have space running routes behind Gronkowski as he clears the zone. Finally, the running backs Dion Lewis (or James White) should be able to slip underneath out of the backfield with open space.
If the Patriots can mitigate the pass rush and use a hurry-up offense to slow down the fast and aggressive defense, attacking at three levels and not turning the ball over should allow the Patriots to move the ball and put up points on Sunday.