2018 NFL Playoffs
AFC Championship Game
#3 Jacksonville Jaguars at #1 New England Patriots
Sunday, January 21, 2018, 3:05 pm Eastern, TV: CBS
Gillette Stadium – Foxborough, Massachusetts
Opening Line: New England -9
Current Line: New England -7 1/2 (Even)
Opening Total: 47
Current Total: 45
Opening Money Line: Patriots -440 / Jaguars +350
Current Money Line: Patriots -320 / Jaguars +260
The New England Patriots are 14-3 and hosting the AFC Championship game Sunday against the 12-6 Jacksonville Jaguars. The Patriots have won five Super Bowl titles since 2001 and look to become the first team to play in ten Super Bowls. The Jaguars are in the AFC Championship game for the third time and first time since 1999. They have never played in a Super Bowl before. The winner between the Patriots and Jaguars will play either the Philadelphia Eagles or Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl LII in two weeks in Minneapolis.
During practice, this week New England quarterback Tom Brady suffered a hand injury on his throwing hand. Brady jammed his hand on a teammate’s helmet. He missed practice on Thursday and was limited on Friday. X-Rays revealed no structural damage, but he had to get four stitches. He is officially listed as questionable, but it would be shocking if he didn’t play. The game was taken off the board on Friday afternoon because of the uncertainty of the injury.
Jacksonville won the AFC South and is the #3 seed in the AFC. The Jaguars beat the #6 seed Buffalo Bills 10-3 in the Wild Card round and upset the #2 seed Pittsburgh Steelers 45-42 in an unexpected shootout in the Divisional round last Sunday. The Jaguars jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first half but then held on for the win. Jacksonville was a 7 point underdog and the total was 40.5.
New England won the AFC East and is the #1 seed in the AFC. After a first round bye, the Patriots crushed the #5 seed Tennessee Titans 35-14 in the Divisional round last Saturday night. New England was a 13.5 point favorite and the total was 48.5.
New England has dominated the series 10-1 against Jacksonville. The Patriots have won seven straight games dating back to the Wild Card game after the 1998 season. That was the only Jacksonville win in the series. New England won the last meeting 51-17 in Foxborough in 2016. This is the fifth playoff meeting between the Jags and Pats. The Patriots are 3-1 against the Jaguars in the post-season, including 31-20 in the Divisional round in 2008.
Jacksonville is coached by Doug Marrone, in his first year with the Jaguars. The Jaguars have home losses to the Tennessee Titans 37-16 and Los Angeles Rams 27-17 and road losses to the New York Jets 23-20 in overtime, Arizona Cardinals 27-24, San Francisco 49ers 44-33 and Titans 15-10. A two game losing streak to end the season ended any hopes of a first round bye for the Jags. Jacksonville has road wins over the Houston Texans 29-7, Pittsburgh Steelers 30-9, Indianapolis Colts 27-0, and Cleveland Browns 19-7, plus a neutral site win in London over the Baltimore Ravens 44-7. The Jaguars have home wins over the Cincinnati Bengals 23-7, Los Angeles Chargers 20-17 in overtime, Colts 30-10, Seattle Seahawks 30-24 and Texans 45-7. The Jaguars are 10-8 ATS and the total is 9-9 this season.
New England is coached by Bill Belichick. The Patriots have home losses to the Kansas City Chiefs 42-27 and against the Carolina Panthers 33-30, plus a road loss at the Miami Dolphins 27-20. New England has road wins over the New Orleans Saints 36-20, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19-14, New York Jets 24-17, Denver Broncos 41-16 and Buffalo Bills 23-3 and Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24, plus home wins over the Houston Texans 36-33, Atlanta Falcons 23-7, Los Angeles Chargers 21-13, Oakland Raiders 33-8, Dolphins 35-17, Bills 37-16 and Jets 26-6. The Patriots have won four straight games 12 of the last 13 games. The Patriots are 12-5 ATS and the over is 8-9 this season.
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Jacksonville is outscoring teams 26-17 this season. The Jaguars are #5 in scoring and are #2 in points allowed. Jacksonville averages 366 total yards per game on offense including 225 passing and 141 rushing yards. The Jags are #6 in total offense and lead the league in rushing. On defense, Jacksonville allows 286 total yards including 170 passing yards and 116 rushing yards. The Jaguars are #2 in total defense and #1 in pass defense. Jacksonville is 95/240 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 80/233. Jacksonville has forced 55 sacks and allowed 24 this season. The Jaguars are +10 in turnovers. Jacksonville has scored seven defensive touchdowns and a special teams touchdown. The Jags have allowed three defensive/special teams touchdowns.
Quarterback Blake Bortles has completed 60.2% of his passes for 3,687 yards with 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and has rushed for 322 yards on 57 carries with 2 touchdowns. He has been sacked 24 times. He has started 48 straight games.
Rookie Running back Leonard Fournette has 268 carries for 1,040 yards and 9 touchdowns, along with 36 catches for 302 yards and a touchdown. Chris Ivory has 112 carries for 382 yards and a touchdown, along with 21 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown. T.J. Yeldon has 49 carries for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns, plus 30 catches for 224 yards. He is probable with an illness. Corey Grant has 30 carries for 248 yards and 2 touchdowns, plus 3 catches for 41 yards.
Receiver Keelan Cole has 42 catches for 738 yards and 3 touchdowns. Marqise Lee has 56 catches for 702 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is probable with an ankle injury. Allen Hurns has 39 catches for 484 yards and 2 touchdowns. Tight end Marcedes Lewis has 24 catches for 318 yards and 5 touchdowns. He is probable with an ankle injury. Dede Westbrook has 27 catches for 339 yards and a touchdown. Receivers Arrelious Benn, Larry Pinkard, Allen Robinson and Rashad Greene are all out for the season. Six defensive players and three offensive linemen are on the injury report.
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New England is outscoring opponents 29-19 this season. The Patriots are #2 in scoring and #5 in points allowed. New England averages 394 yards per game on offense including 276 passing and 11 rushing yards. New England is #1 in total and #2 in passing offense. Even the rushing game is #10. The Patriots are allowing 366 yards per game on defense including 251 passing and 115 rushing yards. New England is #20 or worse in all three categories. The Patriots are 90/215 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 92/231. New England has forced 42 sacks and allowed 35 this season. The Patriots are +6 in turnovers, but have allowed three defensive touchdowns.
Quarterback Tom Brady has completed 66.3% of his passes for 4,577 yards with 32 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, along with 25 carries for 28 rushing yards. He has been sacked 35 times. Brian Hoyer is the back-up if Brady can’t go.
Running back Dion Lewis has 180 carries for 896 yards and 6 touchdowns, plus 32 catches for 214 yards and 3 touchdowns. Mike Gillislee has 104 carries for 383 yards and 5 touchdowns. He is questionable with a knee injury. Rex Burkhead has 64 carries for 264 yards and 5 touchdowns, plus 30 catches for 254 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is probable with a knee injury. James White has 43 carries for 171 yards and has 56 catches for 429 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is probable with an ankle injury.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski has 69 catches for 1,084 yards and 8 touchdowns. Receiver Brandin Cooks has 65 catches for 1,082 yards and 7 touchdowns. Danny Amendola has 61 catches for 659 yards and 2 touchdowns. Chris Hogan has 34 catches for 439 yards and 5 touchdowns. He is probable with a shoulder injury. Receiver Julian Edelman is out with a torn ACL suffered in the pre-season. Twelve defensive players and four offensive linemen are listed on the injury report.
The home team is 6-2 ATS in this series recently. The Patriots are 5-2 ATS against the Jaguars recently including 5-1 ATS at home.
Obviously, this game is difficult to handicap because of the Brady injury. Jacksonville is a great story as they were 3-13 last year and now are one win away from the Super Bowl. The Jaguars have a smothering defense and are a brash young team that isn’t afraid to talk trash. I think they keep it close but I like the Patriots to win at home.