Patriots vs. Jaguars preview: 3 keys to the game, fun facts, prediction

Ryan Hannable
September 15, 2018 - 9:42 am
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It’s not Patriots-Steelers last year in December, but Week 2’s Patriots-Jaguars game is a pretty big regular-season matchup.

Sunday afternoon will be an AFC title game rematch in Jacksonville and both teams come in 1-0 after the Patriots beat the Texans in Week 1, while the Jaguars took down the Giants. The game is getting a lot of hype down south, especially from Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack.

“It’s definitely the most important game of my life,” Jack told reporters this week.

Certainly, the Patriots won’t be hyping it up to that level, but comments like that show just how important it is for Jacksonville.

Patriots vs. Jaguars
Sunday, September 16, 2018
4:25 p.m., CBS
Patriots -1, over/under 45

Related: Watch every Patriots game live online this season at fuboTV

3 keys to the game

Get passing game going

With the current running back situation — James White, Rex Burkhead (concussion, questionable), Sony Michel (knee, questionable), Kenjon Barner and potentially a practice squad add — there isn’t much there, so a lot will be on the shoulders of Tom Brady and the passing game. Jacksonville’s linebackers are extremely quick and took away much of the short-passing game success in the AFC championship game, so Brady is going to need his receivers to make a few plays down the field. Cornerbacks have been giving Phillip Dorsett some room, which is why he’s had success with short routes. Maybe that changes this week and he’s able to beat his defender deep. Chris Hogan is another player who needs to step up and be a dependable target for Brady.

Limit Blake Bortles’ success with play-action

Jacksonville and Blake Bortles had a ton of success with play-action in the AFC championship. Bortles had a 54.5 completion percentage without play-action, but a 78.6 completion percentage with play-action, while the offense averaged 5.6 yards per play without it and 12.1 yards per play with it. This needs to be a major focus of the Patriots defense as this, and when Bortles scrambles, are when he’s at his best. Running back Leonard Fournette is questionable, so this could help the Patriots in that regard, but defending play-action needs to be a lot better than a few months ago.

Keep emotions in check

It certainly will be an emotional atmosphere and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Jaguars try and bait the Patriots into a penalty or two. Brady spoke this week of a little bit of jawing back and forth is fine, as long as it doesn’t negatively impact the team. Gronkowski is one player to keep an eye on, as the Jaguars likely will be going at him most of the game. In the AFC title game, the Patriots had just one penalty for 10 yards, while the Jaguars had six penalties for 98 yards.

Fun facts

1. A win Sunday would be Robert Kraft’s 300th overall with the Patriots, which would be the fastest ever for an NFL owner to reach the milestone.

2. According to Football Outsiders, the Jaguars were 20th in the NFL last season in defending tight ends. The Patriots have won 17 straight games when Gronkowski has 100 or more receiving yards.

3. The Jaguars defense has forced a turnover in 22 of its last 24 games (includes playoffs).

4. Since 2013, the Patriots are 54-2 when leading after three quarters in the regular season.

5. In the regular season since 2001, the Patriots are 147-26 when scoring first.

Prediction 

Patriots 24, Jaguars 20

We really like the Patriots this week. Typically, whenever teams over-hype regular-season games against the Patriots, it usually works against them. There have been countless examples over the years including the Letterman jacket game from the Texans, and all the Rex Ryan games as well. We also like Bill Belichick going up against Doug Marrone, as it’s clear the teams are familiar with each other, but we expect Belichick and the Patriots coaching staff to find an edge. There’s no question this will be a terrific game, but look for the Patriots to make one more big play in the end.

Related: Patriots use Jalen Ramsey's comments in official hype video