Jaguars: Handicapping a Run to the Super Bowl

Now that the Jaguars have officially gained entry into the postseason, there are no more what-ifs or asterisks when discussing the possible playoff match-ups. We are going to handicap the AFC playoff teams, and give odds to what kind of chance that the Jaguars have of beating any of them.

1. New England Patriots
    - Strengths: The Patriots do everything well on offense and are led by the best quarterback in the game, who may be the best quarterback in the history of the game. They can run the ball with Laurence Maroney, pass it to the best wide receiver group in the game (led by Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Donte Stallworth), and they can get after the quarterback, as they are second in the NFL in sacks.

    - Weaknesses: The Patriots can be run on when in close games by bigger, more physical offensive lines, and their secondary is good, but not great.

    - How can the Jaguars beat them? Nobody has defeated them yet, but the best formula for success is to run the football, control the clock, and don't turn the ball over. It would take some really terrible weather for Jacksonville to have a shot at pulling a monumental upset, as the weather would likely nullify the Patriots lethal passing attack.

    - Odds of a Jacksonville victory in Foxboro: 15-20%. On a decent day with no precipitation or heavy winds, Tom Brady will pick apart the Jaguars secondary.


2. Indianapolis Colts
    - Strengths: The Colts have a well balanced offense that's predicated on timing and precision passing in controlled conditions. Joseph Addai is a Pro Bowl running back, and he can make any team pay if they are going to drop back in coverage. The Indianapolis defense philosophy is that of a deep cover two and they take away the big plays in the passing game. The Colts defense waits on teams to lose patience with the short passing game and make mistakes downfield.

    - Weaknesses: The Colts have a very average run defense and teams can control the clock against them. Despite their quarterback winning a Super Bowl, he has had a tendency to play his worst football in January.

    - How can the Jaguars beat them? They've had two chances and failed both times. To beat Indianapolis, you can't turn the ball over or make stupid mistakes, like personal foul penalties and missed field goals. You must control the clock, score early, and take yourself out of third and long's (offensively). Most importantly, you must score touchdowns instead of field goals when in the red zone.

    - Odds of a Jacksonville victory in Indianapolis: 25-30%. The Colts know how to attack the Jaguars defense and the only hope the Jaguars would have is to generate some kind of pass rush that was missing during the first two meetings. Also, questionable calls seem to always go Indy's way when they're in close games so you must defeat them soundly and get up by more than one score.


3. San Diego Chargers
    - Strengths: San Diego runs the football with the best running back in the NFL in LaDainian Tomlinson. The Chargers have the best tight end in football in Antonio Gates, and a defense that puts pressure on opposing quarterbacks and forces turnovers, as they have the most takeaway's in football.

    - Weaknesses: The Chargers signal caller, Phillip Rivers doesn't have a big arm and hasn't yet won a playoff game, despite being surrounded by great talent. The Chargers run defense can also be soft as they're ranked 15th in the NFL. Norv Turner will not go down in NFL history as one of the greatest coaches.

    - How can the Jaguars beat them? With the same formula they beat them with earlier this season, run the ball, stop the run, convert third downs. Defensively, the Jaguars must put the game on Phillip Rivers right arm and if he beats you, then it wasn't your day.

    - Odds of a Jacksonville victory in San Diego: 60-65%. Although the Chargers are playing well right now, they haven't defeated any great teams to close out the season and Jacksonville did a fantastic job of shutting down L.T. in their last meeting. The weather will be nice for running, and that's what Jacksonville does best.


4. Pittsburgh Steelers
    - Strengths: The Steelers have a legitimate Pro Bowl quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, and a set of very solid receivers in Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, and Nate Washington. Roethlisberger has a 5-1 career playoff record which includes a Super Bowl ring. Not bad for a 25 year old. The Steelers also have a very good kicker and punter.

    - Weaknesses: Everything else. The Steelers lost their best running back (Willie Parker) for the season and will struggle to run the football when the playoffs begin with a likely date against Jacksonville. The Steelers offensive line has been struggling mightily, and their top-ranked defense hasn't been able to stop the run effectively since they lost defensive end Aaron Smith for the season.

    - How can the Jaguars beat them? The same way they did two weeks ago, by dominating the line of scrimmage and running the football down their throats. The Jaguars withstood a furious fourth quarter comeback by Ben and company before winning in a very tough building. They will be facing a Steelers team with more injuries and less talent this time around.

    - Odds of a Jacksonville victory in Pittsburgh: 65-70%. The Jaguars have already beaten the Steelers at their own game, and now Pittsburgh won't have Willie Parker, who at the time was the NFL's leading rusher. Ben Roethlisberger is a special player, but if the weather in Pittsburgh is anything like it was a couple weeks ago, the passing game will likely have to suffer, and Pittsburgh won't be able to run the football.


Jacksonville doesn't need to worry about Tennessee at the sixth seed. The odds of the fifth seed Jaguars facing a sixth seed in the AFC Championship game are astronomical, as it hasn't happened since the league has gone to the six team playoff format.


Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.



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