There are teams that you expect to win on an annual basis. Teams that have a lot of roster turnover, in any sport, but always seem to be in the conversation as a team that could find themselves in the championship game. One of those teams is competing in this game.
For the seventh straight season, the Tom Brady led New England Patriots are in the conference finals, as the welcome the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team whose poor record only a season ago resulted in them receiving the fourth overall pick in the latest NFL draft. The tenth straight season that their first round pick was a top ten selection, they used the pick on rookie sensation Leonard Fournette.
With over one thousand rushing yards, the first year back was able to help carry the offense. He served as a necessary role filler for Allen Robinson, who was only able to catch one pass before his season ended with an injury. Due to their problems at quarterback, it was an especially tough task to replace Robinson’s twenty touchdown receptions spanning the entirety of the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
Blake Bortles was once seen as a promising quarterback. After seeing his numbers regress in 2016, and performing poorly in training camp, the University of Central Florida product was rumored to be in danger of losing the starting position. Only topping more than one passing touchdown once over the first eleven weeks of the season, Bortles has faced his critics this season.
Instead of the quarterback, the defense carried the team. Allowing the second least points and second least yards in the entire league over the regular season (trailing only the Vikings in each). Playing in a division with poor quarterback play has not stopped the unit from gaining a reputation as one of the best in the league, particularly against the pass.
Led by offseason-acquisition AJ Bouye, four defenders on the team ranked within the top 25 in the league in interceptions. Pressure led to a lot of interceptions as well, with four more defenders being amongst the top 35 in sacks, led by another off-season acquisition in Calais Campbell.
The defense made a lot of noise, limiting opposing offenses to the least passing yards in the league. The words of players spoke loudly too. Second year cornerback Jalen Ramsey said “We’re going to the Super Bowl and we’re going to win that (expletive).”
This came before the news that Tom Brady injured his hand in practice this week. The leagues leader in passing yards, Brady is likely going to play, but likely not at full strength.
Turning around their defense, the team allowed the fifth least points over the course of the season after an embarrassing start to the season. With only one loss since October 1st, the Patriots are playing with a winning attitude.
Tyler’s Tickets to a Jacksonville Victory:
Tyler’s tickets to a New England Victory:
Brady’s injury does change the way the Jaguars approach the game. They’ll attack with even more pressure. However, Bortles is not the quarterback who is capable of beating this New England team.
Patriots 31- Jaguars 20
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