- Saturday 01/12/08, 8:00 ET
- Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
- CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
- 8th meeting. The Patriots have a 4-0 edge in regular-season games and a 2-1 edge in playoff games. They beat the Jaguars, 28-3, in their last playoff meeting in 2005 and beat the Jaguars, 24-21, in a regular-season game last year when Laurence Maroney ran 27 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
- Teams that have put a scare into the Patriots have been able to run at the front seven, slowly wearing down the aging linebacker corps. The Jaguars certainly have the running game to attack relentlessly on the ground. If Jacksonville dominates time of possession, it can stay within reach. But while QB David Garrard is typically very efficient, the Jaguars can't ask him to lead a comeback of more than a score. ... The Patriots want to jump out to an early lead and force the Jaguars to alter their offensive game plan. Expect QB Tom Brady to come out in the spread offense and go on the attack against a Jacksonville secondary that has been prone to giving up big chunks of yardage. The Jaguars, who recorded six sacks and three picks last weekend, desperately need to get pressure from their front four so they can drop seven in coverage.
- Jaguars: DTs John Henderson (hamstring) and Grady Jackson (knee) returned to practice Thursday and should play; WR Reggie Williams (back) is uncertain; MLB Mike Peterson (broken hand) remains out. Patriots: RG Stephen Neal (shoulder) and RT Nick Kaczur (foot) have been limited in practice this week but both have a chance to play.
- The Jaguars have 15 interceptions in their past nine games. ... Brady is 12-2 career in the playoffs.
--DT John Henderson (hamstring) returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Tuesday and Wednesday.
--DT Grady Jackson (knee) returned to practice after sitting out Wednesday.
--WR Reggie Williams (back) sat out practice Thursday. His condition will be updated Friday.
--CB Terry Cousin may start as a nickel back as the Jaguars try to stop the Patriots' passing game.
--CB Rashean Mathis will likely get a lot of critical duty covering Randy Moss.
--CB Ellis Hobbs (team decision) had limited participation in Thursday's practice. Hobbs was nicked up late in the year but is expected to start against Jacksonville on Saturday.
--S Rodney Harrison (thigh) had limited participation in Thursday's practice. Harrison has been injury-free for the first time in three seasons this year.
--TE Kyle Brady (team decision) had limited participation in Thursday's practice. Brady missed the Patriots' last three regular-season games but should be available Saturday night.
--T Nick Kaczur (foot) had limited participation in Thursday's practice. Kaczur missed the season finale at New York. If he can't go this weekend, Ryan O'Callaghan will replace Kaczur for the second straight game.
--G Stephen Neal (shoulder) had limited participation in Thursday's practice. Neal has been battling a bad shoulder all season and has been in and out of the starting lineup. Ross Hochstein will start for Neal if he can't play against the Jaguars.
--WR Wes Welker (team decision) had limited participation in practice on Thursday. Welker is expected to be in the starting lineup Saturday night against Jacksonville.
The Jaguars got good news on the injury front at defensive tackle Thursday.
Both John Henderson (hamstring) and Grady Jackson (knee) returned to practice as they completed their major preparations for the playoff game in New England Saturday night.
They have a walk-through Friday and then fly to New England.
Neither Henderson nor Jackson practiced Wednesday.
Henderson suffered the hamstring injury on the first series in Pittsburgh so Jackson got a lot of time backing him up.
They would have been thin without them because Rob Meier, starting for Marcus Stroud, and rookie Derek Landri, who had a sack, interception and fumble recovery in Pittsburgh, are the only other two defensive tackles on the roster.
The Jaguars like to rotate their defensive tackles so they'll have more depth with Henderson and Jackson back in uniform.
The Jaguars had six sacks by their defensive linemen against Ben Roethlisberger last week but that'll be much more difficult to do against Tom Brady.
And when the Jaguars blitzed Roethlisberger, they tended to give up big plays.
They need an excellent game by their defensive line so they can drop seven into coverage. They're likely to start nickel back Terry Cousin in an attempt to contain Brady's passing.
The only other setback on the injury front is that wide receiver Reggie Williams didn't practice because of a back injury, but the Jaguars hope he'll be ready to play.
Williams caught only one pass for three yards in Pittsburgh, but it went for a touchdown. He had 10 touchdown catches during the regular season.
The only other player on the injury report besides Williams, Henderson and Jackson is middle linebacker Mike Peterson, who's out with a broken hand.
The Patriots defense faces a stiff challenge Saturday night: stopping the Jaguars' backfield 1-2 punch of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. They combined for close to 2,000 yards as Jacksonville ranked second in the NFL running the football this season.
"I think they're both complete guys, they can do it all," coach Bill Belichick said
"They can run, they can catch, they can block, they're both very good in blitz pick up, they use them both in the passing game, running game, third down, first down -- it doesn't matter. No matter who's in the game, they're both playmakers."
When it comes to their running styles, Taylor and Jones-Drew offer their own unique brands, which can make it difficult for a defender to adjust to them. Jones-Drew is a bowling ball with elusive moves, while the elder Taylor is a power runner with breakaway speed.
"Jones-Drew, a guy that last year we played against him," linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "We put some good looks on him last year and he seemed like he was still breaking tackles and falling forward and he can't be underestimated because of his size. He doesn't have tremendous size, he's a little guy, but he's as tough as they come and you can see that by the way he runs and gets in the end zone."
Taylor didn't play in last year's regular-season meeting between the Patriots and Jaguars. And while he's no spring chicken, Taylor hasn't appeared to lose a step.
"When you look at Fred Taylor, I definitely rate him as one of the best backs that we've seen all year," defensive lineman Richard Seymour said. "When God was giving out talents, Fred went back for seconds.
"I think a lot of the credit (for his longevity) has to go to his training in the offseason. Obviously he's been hurt, but actually I saw him a couple of times during the offseason and he's been working with some real experienced guys, as far as rehabbing and getting him back on the field. He's been doing a good job of taking care of his body. He's the ultimate pro and we have a lot of respect for him."
It will be up to Seymour and the rest of the Patriots defense to stifle Taylor and Jones-Drew Saturday night because if they get rolling on the ground, the Jaguars chance for pulling the upset increases significantly.
Official Game Thread(Pats site)