The NFL schedule rolls into Championship Weekend with a blockbuster double header kicking off at Foxboro Stadium in a battle to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. On one side, you have a surprising Jacksonville Jaguars team that found a way to knock off the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round of the playoffs. On the other side, you have a New England Patriots team playing in their seventh straight AFC Championship Game making it a difficult pick for both fans and sports handicappers this Sunday.
For the Jaguars, they enter this contest with an impressive win over the Steelers last weekend despite allowing a big time performance from Ben Roethlisberger. In that contest, the Jaguars strong running game led by 109 yards and three touchdowns from Leonard Fournette paced the offense while the Jaguars defense took the Steelers running game out of the game early while forcing two key turnovers.
As the Jaguars fought to the final whistle, the Patriots rolled by the Titans 35-14 after a strong second quarter performance. Tom Brady threw for 337 yards with three touchdowns as the Titans could not find an answer to slow down Danny Amendola who finished with 112 yards on 11 receptions. Meanwhile the Patriots defense shut down Derrick Henry and Marcus Mariota allowing them to rush for just 65 total yards. The strong performance from both the Patriots and Jaguars helped sports handicappers cash in with their picks last weekend.
With that said let’s take a look at the Keys to The Game for both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Pressure on Tom Brady
The biggest key to this game will come from the front seven of the Jaguars as they look to get Tom Brady out of rhythm early while forcing him to get rid of the ball to early. This pressure starts up front with Marcell Dareus who has been a key to the Jaguars success on defense since being acquired including registering his first sack of the post season last weekend. On the outside the Jaguars will need both Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell to put together strong performance after recording 23.5 sacks during the regular season.
New England Patriots – Make Blake Bortles Beat You
The one advantage the Patriots have over the Jaguars in this contest outside of playing at home is the fact they have the better quarterback. That will provide to be key this weekend as teams have struggled to force Brady into making mistakes. That said for the Patriots the key to this game will be finding a way to shut down the impressive running game of the Jaguars including Fournette who can not only move the chains but also help the Jaguars slow down the tempo while running off the clock. If the Patriots can play aggressive up front it will force the Jaguars to allow Bortles to throw to beat them.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ New England Patriots (-7.5)
Over/Under Line – 46.5
The betting trends all point to the Patriots as they look to ride another strong season to another trip to the Super Bowl. Entering their AFC Championship showdown with the Jaguars, the Patriots have covered the spread in 12 of their 17 games this season while posting an incredible 9-1 mark against the spread at home. Along with that success the Patriots have covered the spread in five straight home playoff games but have struggled to just a 2-6 mark in their last eight AFC Championship Games. The Jaguars despite winning 12 games this season are just 10-8 against the spread while going just 5-5 on the road. Despite the struggles the Jaguars have posted a 12-5 record against the spread against teams in the AFC.
NFL Football Pick & Prediction of the Week – New England Patriots