January 11, 2008

Can the Jags beat the Patriots?

Everyone is saying they can. Last week's game against the Steelers was one of the best games I've seen all year. The Jags almost blew a huge lead but persevered to win it. David Garrard calling his own number and rushing on 4th and out, that was an unbelievable play. But Pittsburgh isn't even that good. Roethlisberger had a great year by his standards, but overall he was just good. Willie Parker had a great year but he was hurt for the game.

One thing that did surprise me was that the Jags didn't just roll over at the end of the Steelers game when Pittsburgh had surged back. The Jags don't have a whole lot of playoff experience and I kind of saw that mini-collapse coming.. but that they stood their ground at the end, I think that builds character.

Next they play the Patriots who have had an extra week to prepare, and Belicheat says betted on the Jags so they focused on them even before they beat the Steelers, so really they've had nearly 2 full weeks to prepare. They've played only average in December but with those 2 weeks I think they'll be right on track again.

Looking at the matchups, the Jags sacked Big Ben a few times, but Ben pretty much led the league in getting sacked so it's not a huge surprise. I didn't think the Jags had a particularly quick pass rush which a few teams have found to be pretty successful because Brady's got to protect that pretty face of his. Do you see any supermodels dating toothless NHL players? I think not.

Secondly although the Jags also intercepted Big Ben 3(?) times, they were either pretty bad passes, most of them were almost like lobs, or they were deflected or batted down. This rarely happens with Brady's bullet-like passes.

Finally there is the run game. With Brady 'struggling' in December --- I use this term lightly --- Laurence Maroney finally showed why he was on this team of excellent players. He showed that the Pats can also run, when they feel like it. However they'r not great at stopping the run. Their rush defense looks like one of the best, the reality is teams just didn't run on them because they were down 2-5 touchdowns. No one runs when they're down 2 TDs.

So I think the key to this game, if the Jags have a prayer, is to keep the score close or low. The Pats do not want a close game here because it enables the Jags to run and I mean, you saw it last week, you can't stop Jones-Drew and Taylor. Either your defense lines up one way and Drew burns you, or another way and Taylor runs through you.

My prediction is the Pats come out with the mindset "Crush" and jump out to an early 14-3 lead, and then from there it's cruise mode for Brady and his awesome defense.

Key matchup to look out for are the Jags cornerbacks and Patriots receivers. You can't really compare Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes to Randy Moss, I mean these two combined aren't as good as Randy. And then there's still that pesky Welker.

I will be cheering for the Jags, but really I think this game is going to be won by the Pats handily. There is far more pressure on them to win because they're the best team in the league. They also want the privilege of trying to crack last year's champions, and get their revenge on the Colts next week. Unfortunately the Pats thrive on pressure, so this one is going to be a Pats win -- 31-13.

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