Looking ahead to the AFC Championship Game

 

AFC Championship
The Jaguars play the Patriots for the right to move on to the Super Bowl.

This weekend’s AFC Championship game features two teams that are opposites in nearly every way.

Bill Belichick against Doug Marrone. One of the winningest coaches of all time versus a man who is only in his third year as a full-time NFL head coach.

Tom Brady and Blake Bortles. A quarterback who has a claim to being the greatest of all time squaring off against a counterpart who has never experienced a winning record before this year.

The continual greatness versus the long-awaited return. The Pats are playing in their seventh straight AFCCG, and their 14th straight season of double digits wins. Meanwhile, the Jags are in their first AFCCG since 1999 and are coming off six straight seasons without cracking five wins.

Despite the obvious differences in experience and expectations, the game this weekend should be close. It just depends on what the Jaguars can muster on offense. The Jags managed to score 30 or more points eight times this season, including last week’s game against the Steelers. Unfortunately for them, they are playing against a New England defense that is performing quite well, only allowing one team to score more than 20 points against them since week four. New England’s pass rush is also heating up, coming off an eight-sack game against a solid Titans front.

Defensively, the Jags have what it takes to take down Brady and the New England offense. They can get pressure with four, and are playing against a battered offensive line that has been exposed at times this season, most notably against Miami in week 14. They have excellent man corners on both ends of the field, and great linebackers as well. The problem for the Jags will come in coverage against Rob Gronkowski, as they will need to find either a linebacker or even a safety who can match up with him. The Pats can also abuse the fact that Jags rarely use a dime defense. That means the Pats can force the Jags to take one of their great linebackers off the field in favor of another secondary player by playing heavier WR/TE sets instead of relying on their running backs.

This promises to be an interesting game of strategy, as a great, young defense squares off against an adaptive, experienced offense that has a plethora of weapons and game plans to choose from.

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