Less than 24 hours from now, the biggest game of the year will be underway for the New England Patriots in Foxboro as they once again host the AFC Championship Game. Much of the talk this week has been about the status of Tom Brady heading into Sunday with the “we’ll see” response looming large in the media. Well breaking news, Brady is going to play and he’s going to feast on the Jacksonville Jaguars “vaunted defense”.
Brady reportedly injured his hand on Wednesday in practice when a teammate crashed into it. An injury that no one seems to have any clue of how severe it actually is, until Michael Felger of 98.5 The Sports Hub said a source told him there’s no fracture, no ligament damage, just a cut from hitting the buckle on someone’s helmet that required four stitches around the webbing of the knuckle. Shouldn’t affect him throwing the ball, other than the fact he’ll wear a glove on his throwing hand. Felger isn’t going to stick his neck out there with false information, it’s not worth it to him so I buy it one-hundred percent. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport followed up Friday with a reported that Brady was “slinging it” on the practice field Friday. Bottom line, Brady is going to play, and he’s going to be just fine on Sunday.
Now for the Jags. Do people actually think a team quarterbacked by Blake Bortles and coached by Doug Marrone is going to come into Patriot Place and deprive the Patriots of a chance to win a sixth Lombardi Trophy? Yeah, me neither. The Patriots will use a similar gameplan on defense as last week against the Tennessee Titans. Set the edge and contain their powerful runner in Leonard Fournette as they did against Derrick Henry and keep the QB in the pocket and don’t let him get outside clean to make plays with his legs allowing clean boots and play-action passes. Bortles like Mariota, will be forced by the Patriots well-coached defensive unit to beat them from the pocket exclusively, and that’s just not going to happen. Patricia and Belichick prepare their guys every week for their opponents absolute best version of themselves, and that’s what makes them excel. They don’t look at Bortles like you and me, for the mediocre QB he truly is, and will respect his abilities to make plays. That’s why they will slow down their rushing attack and hold the Jags offense in their tracks.
Don’t expect another 45-point effort from that offense again, that was downright pathetic effort on defense by the Pittsburgh Steelers a week ago and it’s a wonder that Keith Butler is still employed while offensive coordinator Todd Haley was let go by the team. The Patriots are not the Steelers and the Jags offense isn’t going to beat you so long as you take Fournette out of the game. Slow down the rushing attack and force Bortles to beat you from the pocket and he’ll crumble.
As for the Jacksonville defense, don’t get me wrong they have some talented players on that side of the ball, but they’re a bit overrated in the media and their own minds. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey has already predicted a Jags win in Foxboro tomorrow, clearly he didn’t learn from the Steelers mistakes, but they certainly don’t lack in confidence. This defense was exposed for who they truly were last week and it’s not the first time, either. Jimmy Garoppolo dropped a 44-burger on this same defense a few weeks back with absolutely nothing around him with the 49ers and this team was also beaten on the road by a team led by Blaine Gabbert. Call me crazy, but with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Josh McDaniels, and Bill Belichick, I’ll take the Pats to expose the fraudulent and overrated Jags defense.
Their defensive line is no joke with Calais Campbell, Marcell Dareus and Malik Jackson leading the unit, and if there is one way to stop Tom Brady it’s with pressure in his face all game long. You have to respect their ability to rush the passer, and if they were to make it a game, that would be the primary reason. Getting to Brady and beating up on the Patriots offensive line. McDaniels will have a designed game-plan to augment the pressure at Brady with screens, a strong running game led by Dion Lewis and quick passes to guys like Hogan, Amendola, Cooks and Gronk. The Jags have super-athletic young linebackers that can often over-commit and miss assignments and that’s where they will be beaten and exposed. I can see the Patriots, Brady’s hand being what it is and all, putting up 30-something points easily.
Give me the Patriots on Sunday afternoon to cover and beat the Jaguars. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will head to their eighth Super Bowl together with a chance to win number six against either Minnesota or Philadelphia.
Prediction: Patriots 34, Jaguars 17
Follow Frank Pimentel on Twitter: @FrankBostonTank