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JAGUARS AT PATRIOTS
So, we've been hearing for the last month or so how the Jaguars are built to play cold weather playoff games. The Jaguars are the team no one wants to play in the playoffs. The Jaguars are the team that can upset the Patriots. On, and on and on. That's all well and good. That's what the media does. Hype. But if there's a group of people all this talk is NOT good for, it's the Jaguars. If there was any chance the Patriots would overlook the Jags, Take them lightly, whatever, that chance is gone now. The Jaguars will have the Patriots undivided attention Saturday Night, you can count on that.
Where do we start? Let's start with a team that's been built for cold weather playoff games. A team similar to old NFC East teams....we're speaking of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their make up, their style, didn't exactly help them a few weeks ago when they visited the Patriots did it? They came into town guaranteeing a win and left with a 21 point loss. Smart move. Give the Patriots additional motivation.
In reading different articles this week, I couldn't help but notice a few mention that the Patriots haven't been scoring like they did early in the season. Huh?? Ok, they only scored 20 against the Jets. One game. Every other time out saw at least 27 points with a 38 point performance in their finale. That's right, in their first game this year, they scored 38. In their last game this year, they scored 38. Not much of a drop off.
Next let's take a look at a few games towards seasons end that the TV block heads keep referring to as blueprints to beat the Patriots. First, realize how difficult it is to accomplish what the Patriots did this year. There's a reason no team has gone undefeated since 1972. There have been some great football teams between 1972 and the present. Safe to say the best teams ever, played between 1972 and the present. The Steelers dynasty. The 85 Bears. The 86 Giants. The 49ers. No one was able to go undefeated.
There are natural flat spots during the course of an NFL season. No team is exempt from those spots. Perhaps it's a road game against a lesser quality non division opponent sandwiched in between two key division games. Maybe it's a game against a team you beat by 4 touchdowns the first time around. Maybe it's a game off a short week. Whatever. The list goes on. It's difficult for a team to maintain intensity at the same level for 60 minutes. Never mind for 16 games.
So, the Patriots didn't blow out the worst team in football, the Ravens. They actually almost lost. But how easy do you think it was to "get up" for the Ravens? Meanwhile, for the Ravens, it was their Super Bowl. Prime Time TV audience. A team going nowhere. The Patriots got every teams best shot this year. That's the price of fame. The Eagle game is another example. A flat spot. They had just beaten the Bills 56-10 the week before. Another prime time Audience. Another best shot effort. That's it though folks. Two close games, and then the Colts game at Indy. Every other game, they won by double digits. Not just mediocre teams either. We're talking playoff teams. The Chargers, Steelers, Cowboys, Redskins. Oh, forgot to mention the Giants game. Again, the Giants played a great game, as they had zero pressure on them. A win or a loss wouldn't have changed anything for the Giants. All the pressure was on the Pats, to stay undefeated and break a few records. Didn't matter in the big scheme of things whether the Pats won or lost either. Sure, they wouldn't have the record. But their playoff situation would be no different. So you have to throw out that Giants game.
If I were backing the Jags, I'd be a little worried about their inability to finish a game. Their two biggest games down the stretch were at the Steelers twice. Hats off to the Jags. They prevailed. But they also let the Steelers back into both games. You think the Jags are going to be able to go into New England and hold a lead if they are lucky enough to get one? No chance.
The Pats on the other hand, know how to finish. This Patriot team has not taken the pedal of the floor in any game this year. This team tries to punch it in the end zone when they are up by 4 or 5 touchdowns! That's unprecedented in the NFL.
As we pointed out last week, the Jags have been impressive down the stretch. They have put up some very good numbers, although no excuse for almost blowing the Steeler game. But the Pats have been impressive from start to finish. Looking at the Jags entire body of work on the road, they outscored their opponents 25-24. They had a yards per point number on offense of 13 and defense of 13. The Pats at home outscored opponents 34-13 with a yards per point of 12 on offense and 21 on defense.
The line on this game is inflated, no doubt. Most playoff games are. The inflation is probably warranted here. Surprisingly, all the various sites that offer betting percentage stats, show more wagers being taken on the Jags than the Pats. The media blitz in favor of Jacksonville has worked.
The feeling here, is that you're going to get one of the best efforts of the entire year from the Patriots on Saturday Night. They have heard and read all of the same media reports about the big bad Jags, the Blue Prints to beat the Pats, the Jags built for the cold, etc.etc.etc. The Jags only chance in this game is to go up on the Pats early by 10 or by two touchdowns. If that were to happen, they could concentrate on pounding the ball. Even in that scenario, a win is not likely, but a cover may happen. Any other scenario figures to be disastrous. If the Pats go up early, and the Jags have to abandon the game plan, getting away from the run, they're toast.
When you think Patriots, think boxing. The superior boxer breaks his opponents down. The other guy may hang in for awhile, but the cumulative affect of the jabs and body shots sets up the opponent to be knocked out in the later rounds. No different with the Pats. If this game is close for awhile, expect them to pull away in the late 3rd and 4th quarters. That's what they do. They are that good.
3* Patriots -13
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1* winners includes a +130 money line play