The Patriots achieved something not accomplished since ’72, a perfect regular season.
The Patriots achieved something not accomplished since ’72, a perfect regular season. However, it will all be for not if they fail to win Super Bowl XLII in four weeks. With that pressure looming, New England will host upstart Jacksonville to open a postseason run. The Patriots were as dominant as any team ever in going 16-0 SU & 10-6 ATS, scoring the most points in NFL history at 36.8 PPG and outscoring teams by 19.7 PPG. Incredibly, they are 12-2 SU & 8-5 ATS in the playoffs under HC Bill Belichick. The Jaguars meanwhile, are on the list of foes teams were hoping to avoid in January, having gone 12-5 SU & 11-6 ATS so far in ’07-08, playing efficient, yet physical football. They are returning to the site of their last playoff loss, a 28-3 decision in 2006.
The Jags have fallen on hard times in the NFL, earning just one playoff appearance in the past seven years (that one visit resulting in a 25-point Wild Card loss to New England in 2005). This year’s break from the trend is led by David Garrard. The prolific passer finished the regular season as the 3rd-ranked quarterback in the game (102.2 QB Rating) and has been the catalyst for victory both over Pittsburgh in the Wild Card round and during the regular season. Of course, the rushing attack, bolstered by the fleet-of-foot QB as well as veteran rusher Fred Taylor and star-on-the-rise Maurice Jones Drew, is key. This team averaged 149.4 rushing yards per game during the regular season (2nd in the league) and will have to reproduce such gaudy returns if the Jags hope to advance.
However, as the Pittsburgh victory showed, there is reason for concern. The J’ville defense may have held Pittsburgh to 43 total rushing yards, but the Steelers were missing their leading rusher (Willie Parker), offered a patchwork offensive line, and QB Ben Roethlisberger nearly 70% of his pass attempts for 8.0 yards per attempt. During the regular season, this unit held opposing QBs to a respectable 76.1 QB Rating (7th in the NFL). If those numbers can’t be translated into the postseason, the Jags are all but destined for trouble.
If you don’t know, you don’t like football. The Patriots sit on the precipice of greatness, a clear and present danger to any and every team that has ever earned respect as a roster worthy of debate as the best to ever grace the fields of the NFL. Turn this playoff campaign into a Lombardi Trophy and another gaudy set of Super Bowl rings and a world of respect and admiration will become an undeniable fact. It would be a perfect season (clearly marking this Patriot team as, at the very least, one of the two best teams in the history of the game) and the Patriots’ fourth Super Bowl title in seven seasons (clearly marking this team as one of the most powerful dynasties in the history of sports).
Tom Brady makes the offense go, working to complete one of the most dominating single-season campaigns as quarterback has ever seen. Only his favorite target, veteran WR Randy Moss, might prove worthy of challenging for title of most potent offensive weapon in the NFL. Second-year RB Laurence Maroney has surged in recent weeks and brought the only questionable facet of this offense to prominence. The defense has followed suit, holding opponents under 200 passing yards and 100 rushing yards per game.
Only three games stand between this team, perfection, and history.
Key Trend – Teams with the better straight-up record are 10-3 ATS the last three years in Conference semis.
Keys to the Game
This Saturday evening affair showcases the best team in football against the one nobody want to play. Jacksonville has many of the qualities teams that teams have had success against New England, in terms of moving the ball. The Jaguars unheralded offensive line has pushed around most teams this year in being second in the league in rushing yards. Maurice Jones-Drew is the perfect player to give New England fits both as a runner and receiver. David Garrard can beat you with his arm or legs and has played very calm. Jacksonville is 12-3 ATS after playing their last game on the road. For New England's players, in many ways the pressure is off until they get to Glendale. The perfect regular season has been accomplished and with two more wins, both at home, they arrive at there predetermined destination. As dangerous as the Jaguars appear, the fact Pittsburgh came back throwing the ball in both games in the second half, does not bode well against Brady, Moss and the rest of the pass catchers from New England. Look for Belichick to have his defensive backs lay the lumber to Jacksonville's ordinary receivers, with the hope of having them develop case of alligator arms. Pats are 22-9 ATS vs. good passing teams averaging seven or more passing yards per attempt in the second part of the season. Tough situation for the Jags playing their third straight road game.
StatFox Edge – Patriots cover