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The Gash at Gillette!: Previewing the AFC Title Game

The Blitz for Six continues today at Gillette Stadium, when the Patriots take on the Jacksonville Jaguars for the right to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LII.

Here are a few things to consider entering today’s game.

1. Will he or won’t he?

Patriots Nation had a collective heart attack earlier this week, when news broke of Tom Brady suffering a right hand injury during practice. Ever since then, the media has been heavily debating whether or not Brady will be playing in today’s game, with many pundits believing that this development proves that the Patriots were wrong to trade Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers. Although Brady did suffer a deep gash on his right hand (hence the title of today’s article), it appears as if he will be ready to go against Jacksonville.

tb injury.jpg
(Photo by Bill Sikes/AP)

2. Stopping Leonard Fournette

The Patriots defense was dominant against the run during last week’s rout of the Titans, as they limited Derrick Henry to 28 yards on the ground. Today’s task won’t be much easier, as they take on the freight train, Leonard Fournette, who demolished the Steelers for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns. Fournette took over the game in the first quarter, and would have likely had more yards if not for an ankle injury he sustained in the second quarter. To have a chance of winning, the Patriots will need to keep him contained throughout the game.

leonard fournette v pats.jpg
(Photo by the AP)

3. Blake Bortles vs the Pats defense

Blake Bortles is one of the NFL’s most criticized players, as both fans and players believe that he is an overrated and ineffective quarterback. Bortles silenced most of his doubters with a surprisingly clutch game against the Steelers, as he was able to constantly lead the Jaguars down the field to close out Pittsburgh. Bortles has also demonstrated his prowess in getting out of the pocket to pick up first downs. Knowing Bill Belichick, it is obvious that the Patriots will show Bortles the respect he deserves, in order to properly understand the way in which he plays. Making Bortles uncomfortable will be essential for the Pats to have a good chance of winning today.

Blake Bortles, Tom Brady
(Photo by the AP)

4. Matchup of the day: Pats’ offense vs Jags’ defense

The most intriguing matchup of today’s game is between the Patriots’ offense and the Jaguars’ defense, as both units are the best the NFL has to offer. TB12 and his plethora of weapons will face their tallest task of the season, as they take on Calais Campbell, Jalen Ramsey, and the rest of the ferocious Jaguars defense. Jacksonville’s ability to get after the quarterback with only 4 rushers allows them to have more men in coverage, making it harder for TB12 to pass across the middle. The Patriots should rely on Gronk, and also their running backs, such as Dion Lewis, who should be able to pick on Jacksonville’s linebackers, due to their immense speed. Studying tape from Jacksonville’s contest against Pittsburgh will be really important, as Big Ben and the Steelers’ offense were able to pick apart Jacksonville’s normally unstoppable defense. TB and Josh McDaniels may have also looked at Jacksonville’s game against San Francisco, where their former protege Jimmy Garoppolo shredded the Jaguars. Finding and exploiting weaknesses in the Jaguars’ defense will be essential for victory.

tb gronk jags.jpg
(Photo by Steven Senne/AP)

 

Prediction: Patriots 27, Jaguars 17

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