Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots
Date and Time: Sunday, January 21, 2018, 3:05 p.m. ET
Location: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
Opening NFL Odds: Patriots -8, O/U 47
Patriots vs. Jaguars TV Coverage: CBS
To say that the Jaguars have had a bizarre postseason is an understatement. They started off the playoffs with a 10-3 win over the Bills, one of the ugliest playoff games in NFL history. They followed that up by scoring the most points ever by any team in a playoff game in Pittsburgh by beating the Steelers 45-42 in the fourth-highest scoring playoff game in NFL history.
Even though the two final scores were vastly different, the formulas were exactly the same for the Jags: They ran the ball as much as they could, and they played good defense.
It's hard to say Jacksonville's defense was "good" after allowing 545 yards and 42 points to the Steelers, but so much of that came in garbage time in the fourth quarter when the offense was pouring it on. Telvin Smith scored a defensive touchdown in the second quarter to help stretch out the lead to 28-7, and the team came up with a huge fourth down stop when the Steelers had the ball down 28-21 early in the fourth quarter with all of the momentum on their side.
Replicating that success against New England is going to be something else, though. The Patriots weren't even remotely as good as they could be last week against the Titans, yet they still walked out of Gillette Stadium with a 35-14 victory.
Tom Brady was a ho-hum 35-for-53 for 337 yards with three touchdowns, giving him a whopping 10 games with three or more touchdown passes in his career, the most in NFL history.
Even with Chris Hogan hobbled and both Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead out of the lineup, the Pats got great games out of Dion Lewis, Brandon Bolden and James White out of the backfield when Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski had huge days in the passing game.
Matchup to Watch
Antonio Brown had a big day against the Jags last week, but it's hard to say that Jalen Ramsey did much of anything wrong. He was all over Brown on both of his touchdown grabs, and if that's what it takes to beat him, he definitely did his job.
It'll be interesting to see if the Jags decide to put Ramsey, their best and most-physical cover man on Gronkowski. You just know that the former Florida State Seminole would love to get his shot at the biggest freak of an athlete at the tight end position in the NFL. That could open up a lot of holes in the running game if Ramsey is converted to more of a safety, especially since that would probably take a linebacker off the field more often than not.
The Jags have made a history out of pressuring quarterbacks with just four men and asking the seven to stay in coverage, but the bottom line is that Brady gets the ball out of his hands too fast for that to matter. If there isn't enough pressure on TB12 and Gronkowski wins the battle against whomever he's up against, this is going to be a long day for the Jacksonville defense.
Jaguars vs. Patriots Free Picks
Don't overthink this game. New England is the better team and the better team by a wide margin in this game. Don't buy into the hype that these Jaguars look a lot like those Giants who gave Brady so much trouble in yesteryear. Those Giants had a Hall of Fame quarterback. These Jaguars have Blake Bortles, who is now 26-for-49 for 301 yards in the playoffs.
It's insulting that the Patriots aren't double-digit favorites in this game at any of the top NFL sportsbooks, and we think they're going to provide a relatively easy victory for their backers on Sunday to get to an eighth Super Bowl under Brady and Belichick.
NFL ATS Pick: Patriots -8 at BookMaker.eu
NFL Score Prediction: Patriots 38, Jaguars 14