Tom Brady injured his throwing hand in practice this week and is officially listed as questionable.
Jacksonville Jaguars (11-6; 10-7 ATS; 9-8 O/U) vs. New England Patriots (14-3; 12-5 ATS; 8-9 O/U)
Line: New England -9
The New England Patriots will host the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship game Sunday afternoon from Gillette Stadium. The Jaguars recorded a 45-42 road win in Pittsburgh on Sunday, and the Patriots crushed the Titans by a 35-14 score on Saturday night. These teams last met in 2015 in a game the Patriots won by a 51-17 score. The Patriots lead the all-time season series 10-1.
Jaguars Explode for 45 Points in Wild Win in Pittsburgh
The Jacksonville Jaguars are headed to their first AFC Title game since 1999. They matched a season-high with 45 points in Sunday’s win in Pittsburgh. Blake Bortles played well, collecting 214 passing yards with one touchdown and no turnovers. The 27-year old quarterback was shaky in the Wildcard win in Buffalo, however, he was steady in Pittsburgh. Leonard Fournette was tremendous in Sunday’s win, accumulating 109 rushing yards on 24 carries. The rookie running back was much better than his 57-yard performance in the Wildcard, and he will likely see several carries again in this one against a Patriots defense that will give up yards on the ground. Marqise Lee was targeted six times by Bortles against the Steelers and made a total of three receptions for 28 yards. The 26-year old receiver tallied 702 passing yards in 14 regular season games this year. Jacksonville finished the regular season with the number one running game, and they averaged 26.1 points, ranking them fifth in the NFL.
The Jaguars’ defense had a rough afternoon in the win over the Steelers, surrendering 545 total yards, including 469 passing yards. They will need to be much sharper in this one and they cannot rely on their offense to bail them out again. Jacksonville does feature one of the best defensive units in the NFL, including the number one pass defense. They limited opponents to an average of 16.8 points in the regular season, good for second in the NFL.
Brady Leads Patriots to Seventh Straight AFC Title Game
The New England Patriots are back in the AFC Championship game for the seventh consecutive season after crushing the Titans by a 35-14 score in the AFC Divisional Playoff this past weekend. Tom Brady was tremendous once again, accumulating 337 passing yards with three touchdowns against zero interceptions. The 40-year old future Hall of Fame quarterback now features a 66:31 TD to INT ratio in 36 career playoff games. Patriots’ leading rusher Dion Lewis played well against the Titans, amassing 62 yards on 15 carries. The 27-year old running back had a breakout season, collecting 896 rushing yards and averaged five yards per carry. Danny Amendola had his best game of the entire season in Saturday’s win, bringing in 11 catches for 112 yards. The 32-year old wide receiver notched 659 receiving yards in the regular season. Tom Brady was able to pick apart the Titans secondary, and while he will be facing an elite Jaguars secondary in this matchup, they did look not look good in Pittsburgh. New England averaged 28.6 points this season, good for second in the NFL.
The Patriots defense was outstanding in the win last week, holding the Titans to only 267 total yards and they set a Patriots playoff record with eight sacks. Trey Flowers made one sack last week and now has 7.5 on the season. The Patriots cannot let Leonard Fournette beat them and Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia will likely use a similar defensive game plan that was successful against Derrick Henry last week. New England held opponents to an average of 18.5 points in the regular season, placing them fifth in the NFL.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are:
- 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games at New England.
- 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games after scoring more than 30 points in their previous game.
- 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games after allowing less than 90 rushing yards in their previous game.
The New England Patriots are:
- 5-0 ATS in their last 5 home playoff games.
- 13-3 ATS in their last 16 games following a straight up win of more than 14 points.
- 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games after allowing less than 15 points in their previous game.
I am taking the Patriots in this battle. The Jaguars defense just surrendered 45 points and 469 passing yards to the Steelers, and they are up against the Patriots’ unstoppable passing game. Tom Brady continues to shine and there is no defense that can stop him. He tallied 337 passing yards with three touchdowns last week, and I expect Brady to do his usual damage again in this one. The Jaguars also finished the regular season with the 21st ranked rush defense, and New England’s running game is also a threat led by Dion Lewis.
Furthermore, I don’t expect the Jaguars to have nearly the offensive success that they enjoyed last week. Blake Bortles is a very inconsistent quarterback and he can’t be trusted against a Patriots team that just notched eight sacks against the Titans last week. The Patriots limited Derrick Henry to an average of only 2.3 yards per carry last week, and I am confident they can at least contain Leonard Fournette.
Pick: New England Patriots
The Patriots scored 35 points against the Titans and are now up against a Jaguars defense that looked vulnerable against the Steelers last week. The Jaguars defense surrendered five passing touchdowns against Pittsburgh, and Tom Brady is a spectacular playoff performer, so I expect a very productive night from the Patriots offense, plus the over is 7-0 in the Patriots last seven home playoff games. The Jaguars should also move the ball with some success behind the dangerous Leonard Fournette, and the over is 5-0 in their last five games following a straight up win.