Jaguars - Patriots: Does Experience Matter?

The Jacksonville Jaguars are headed to New England to play the Patriots in the wildcard round of the playoffs on Saturday night. The Jags have been in the situation before, beating New England in 1998. Then New England went on their tear three season later and own the playoffs. While the Jaguars have struggled in the postseason, New England has thrived. Both sides say the experience factor isn't a big deal, but that just begs the question, Does experience matter?

Does playoff experience make a difference?

The Jaguars will find that out Saturday night when they play the New England Patriots in a first-round playoff game.

Of the 53 players on the Patriots roster, 36 own Super Bowl rings and 30 have two or more.

By contrast, the Jaguars have one active player, Jimmy Smith, who owns a Super Bowl ring.

Smith has a pair of them from the Dallas Cowboys' back-to-back victories after the 1992-1993 seasons, though he was on injured reserve the second season. He gave the first one to his father and he keeps the second one in a safety deposit box.

Only one Jaguar, Reggie Hayward, was even in the playoffs last year. He was on the Denver team that lost to Indianapolis in the first round, 33-14.

Of the Jaguars' 53 active players, only 13 have appeared in a playoff game and only four - Smith, Terry Cousin, Greg Favors and Deon Grant - have played in the Super Bowl. Cousin, Favors and Grant were on Carolina's 2003 Super Bowl team that lost to the Patriots. Favors was also on Tennessee's 1999 team that lost to St. Louis.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has tried to downplay the experience factor.

Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest said in a conference call that Belichick told his players, "When you live in the past, you die in the present."

Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said of the Patriots' edge in playoff experience, "Hopefully, it doesn't show up in the won-loss column because they have all the experience and we have very little."

If history means anything, playoff experience isn't a big factor.

Both the Jaguars and Patriots are prime examples.

The Jaguars played their first playoff game at Buffalo in 1996 as a second-year expansion team against a Bills team that was 9-0 in the playoffs at what is now Ralph Wilson Stadium and beat them, and then shocked Denver in a bigger upset the following week before losing to the Patriots in the AFC title game.

The Patriots lost to the Jaguars in the 1998 playoffs, 25-10, in their last playoff defeat.

New England didn't even make the playoffs the next two years and then started its run in 2001 of winning three Super Bowls in four years.

The Jaguars don't seem that concerned about the Patriots' edge in playoff experience.

Quarterback Byron Leftwich said, "The only way to learn how to win in the playoffs is to win. Four years ago, they were in the same situation we are in now. Everybody in the playoffs has an opportunity."

If the Jaguars can upset the Patriots, they'll show it doesn't make a difference.

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