Playoff Preview: Jaguars @ Patriots

Jaguars get ready to take on the Patriots. Here's our first preview of this matchup.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots

Saturday, January 12, 2008, 8:00 p.m.

Foxboro, Massachusetts

Kickoff Temperature: 33 degrees, 10% chance of precipitation

Line: Patriots by 12

Records: Jaguars 12-5, second place in the AFC South; Patriots 16-0, first place in the AFC East.

Series notes: Patriots lead all-time series 6-1, with the last meeting a 24-21 Patriots victory in Jacksonville on 12/24/06. These teams have met three times in the postseason with New England winning two of the three meetings including a 2005 blowout victory in Foxboro, 28-3.

New England offense: 1st overall (1st passing, 13th rushing); Scoring- 1st- 36.8 ppg. Vs. Jacksonville defense: 12th overall (15th passing, 11th rushing); Scoring- 10th- 19.0 ppg.

    The New England Patriots offense gives new meaning to the team juggernaut. The Pats scored more points (589) than any other team in the history of the NFL. New England can run the ball well, and throw it with what could be the best quarterback in the history of football in Tom Brady, who has certainly had the best regular season in the history of the NFL completing 68.9% of his passes for 4806 yards, and an NFL record 50 passing touchdowns with just 8 interceptions, and an NFL record passer rating of 117.2.

    Part of Brady's success in 2007 has been from his outstanding group of receivers, with Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Donte Stallworth. Moss set a new NFL record with 23 receiving touchdowns while catching 98 balls for nearly 1500 yards. Welker caught 112 passes for nearly 1200 yards by being the "second option." Wide receivers Donte Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney, combined with tight end Ben Watson have combined for 128 receptions for 1535 yards and 14 touchdowns. Utility back Kevin Faulk is indispensable in the New England offense as a third down back, as Faulk has caught 47 balls for 383 yards, and has ran for 265 yards on just 62 carries. Another key factor in the Pats unparalleled success is their offensive line. Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Stephen Neal, and Nick Kaczur give Brady all the time he needs to find open receivers. The Patriots offensive line has paved the way for star running back Laurence Maroney to gain 835 yards on the ground on just 185 carries. New England owns the 13th ranked rushing attack despite running the football just over 43% of the time, the lowest percentage in the NFL.

Jacksonville offense: 7th overall (17th passing, 2nd rushing); Scoring- 6th- 25.7 ppg. Vs New England defense: 4th overall (6th passing, 10th rushing); Scoring- 4th- 17.1 ppg.

    The Patriots defense has one Pro Bowler on each level, led by defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, linebacker Mike Vrabel, and cornerback Asante Samuel. The Pats 3-4 defense puts pressure on opposing quarterbacks by disguising coverages and dropping defenders. The Pats front three is led by Wilfork in the middle, with perennial Pro Bowler Richard Seymour and Ty Warren on the outside.

    The linebacker corps is led by Mike Vrabel, who is seemingly always involved in big plays, and has 77 tackles and 12.5 sacks on the season. Opposite Vrabel is Adalius Thomas, who at 6'2 , 270 lbs. can not only rush the passer, but is also fast enough to drop back in coverage. On the inside, the Patriots have veterans Tedy Bruschi and Junior Seau, who have a combined 30 years of experience and nearly 3000 tackles.

    In the secondary, the Patriots are led by Pro Bowl corner Asante Samuel who has 16 interceptions over the last two seasons. Opposite Samuel is corner Ellis Hobbs, who is a speedy, ballhawking corner in his own right. The Pats safeties are the very hard hitting Rodney Harrison, and James Sanders. If the Pats defense has a weakness it speed at linebacker and the safety positions.

Special Teams

Patriots kickoff return- 5th (24.7 ypr.); punt return- 11th (9.4 ypr.); punting- 26th (41.4 gross); net punting- 10th (39.7 avg.); kickoff coverage- 12th (22.1 ypr. allowed); punt coverage- 2nd (5.4 ypr allowed)

Jaguars kickoff return- 13th (23.3 ypr.); punt return- 8th (10.1 ypr.); punting- 25th (41.6 gross); net punting- T24th (37.6 avg.); kickoff coverage- 4th (19.7 ypr. allowed); punt coverage- 11th (7.8 ypr. allowed)

    Patriots: PK Stephen Gostkowski , P Chris Hanson, LS Lonie Paxton, KR Ellis Hobbs, PR Wes Welker.

    Gostkowski is 21/24 on field goals with a long of 45 yards. Hobbs is averaging 26.0 yards per return on kickoffs, and Welker is averaging 10.0 yards per punt return.

    Jaguars: PK Josh Scobee, P Adam Podlesh, LS Joe Zelenka, KOR Maurice Jones-Drew, PR Dennis Northcutt.

    Scobee is 12/13 on field goals with a long of 48 yards. Jones-Drew is averaging 26.2 yards per kickoff return. Northcutt is averaging 9.2 yards per punt return.

    Special teams should be pretty evenly matched, as both teams have dangerous return men, cover kicks well, and have young kickers.


Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Sportsillustrated.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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