The Jacksonville Jaguars are finally getting the respect they’ve deserved since mid-season. I’ve been confounded over my lifetime as an NFL fan why the League has always seemed to hide the Jaguars from National television, even during periods when they’ve been quite successful.
Certainly the Jags had a brutal 5-year stretch before this year- but prior to that, from their inception in 1995 until 2008, they were a model franchise. The expansion-phase Jaguars in the 1990’s, lead by Tom Coughlin and Mark Brunell had unparalleled success for a young franchise. They played in 8 playoffs games in their first 5 seasons! (Including 2 trips to the AFC Championship Game).
The Jaguars are getting some respect for being a real threat to the Patriots- the same respect they should have gotten last week going to Pittsburgh and did not- however, most fans don’t realize that they have a legitimate shot of winning the AFC Championship Game, and furthermore for you gamblers out there, are a great value-bet to cover any spread.
Here are some hidden gems as to why the Jags may actually win in Foxborough:
1. The Jaguars BEAT the Patriots this season!
Way back in week 1 of the preseason, Jacksonville travelled to New England and beat the Patriots 31-24 in Foxborough. It would be easy to write this off as a meaningless game in week 1 of the preseason; but I believe it matters. Here’s why:
a) Bill Belichick is famous for being different than every other coach- and his views on the preseason are no different. Many coaches don’t care whether they win or lose a preseason game, but Belichick cares more than most. He certainly wouldn’t want to start the season off with a loss at home, which is what happened.
I’m not saying this game matters a ton or is comparable to a regular season game, but it matters in this sense- the Jaguars have won at Foxborough this season.
b) Another important factor about that preseason game is that although Tom Brady didn’t see the field, the Pats were lead by Jimmy Garoppolo- who played 75% of the game- and as we all know by now, Jimmy GQ is a very solid quarterback, likely a budding superstar. He’s undefeated as an NFL starter, however, he lost to the 2017 Jaguars in August.
c) The Jaguars have played at Gillette Stadium this year, are familiar with the locker rooms/facilities, so the environment at Gillette Stadium won’t be entirely foreign for them on Sunday.
2. The Tom Coughlin effect
Tom Coughlin is the man in Jacksonville pulling the strings behind the scenes. He has been a huge part of Jacksonville’s turn around this season in his first year back with the team.
He knows how to beat the Patriots in the playoffs. He’s 3-1 all-time against the Pats in the Playoffs including 2 wins in the SuperBowl.
3. The Jaguars have the right formula
a) Teams that have been successful in the past versus the Patriots in Playoffs have some commonalities. Tom Brady struggles with teams who get to the quarterback and hit the QB. (check for the Jags).
b) Tom Brady and the Patriots offense struggles with great pass defenses a lot more so than great rush defenses. (Check for the Jags).
c) Offenses that can put up big points against the Pats in the playoffs are duel threat teams who are great at running the ball and controlling the gameflow. The Jaguars have 3 really good running backs (Fournette, Ivory, and Yeldon) and are capable of controlling the clock. Of course, Blake Bortles will need to have another really strong game in order for the Jags to pull off this upset.
4. The Gronk effect
Rob Gronkowski is likely the hardest player in the League for defenses to scheme against. He’s too big for defensive backs to cover, he’s too fast for linebackers to cover, he has amazing hands, and he has the Golden Boy throwing it to him.
It looks like the Jaguars are going to blanket him with Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey has the talent to limit Gronkowski’s dominance. The 5th overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft may already be the best corner in the League.
5. The Golden Boy’s Hand Injury
An accidental collision at Patriots practice on Wednesday left Tom Brady with a right hand injury- (throwing hand). The Patriots star QB missed the media session to get X-rays on his hand, which came back negative. Presumably, he hit his hand on a teammate’s helmet while throwing a pass.
Brady missed Thursdays practice due to the injury. TB12 has legendary work ethic and would not miss this practice if it wasn’t a real issue. I’m sure he will be ready to go Sunday, but he’s apparently never suffered an injury to his throwing hand before. If he’s playing at 70-90% health, this injury could be a big factor.
Fun Fact: Curse of the Titans
An oddity about the Jaguars franchise is that they have struggled mightily with the Tennessee Titans. Most years they go 0-2 versus Tennessee, as they did this year.
Way back in 1999, the Jaguars lost in the AFC Championship Game to Tennessee, and posted an overall record of 15-3. All 3 of their losses were to Tennessee!! 15-0 versus the rest of the League. (Ironically, the Patriots eliminated the Titans last week).
If you take out the 2 losses to the Titans, (including a week 17 loss which Tennessee needed a lot more than J-Ville), the Jaguars are 12-4 this season. Those 12 wins include 2 wins at Pittsburgh, who themselves would have beaten New England if it wasn’t for that brutal Jesse James non-touchdown call.
Surprisingly, this will be the 5th time the Jaguars have played the Patriots in the Playoffs. They are 1-3 versus New England in the playoffs. 1-0 in Jacksonville and 0-3 in Foxborough.
The 4 previous Playoff matchups happened in January of 1998, 1999, 2006, and 2008.