The 2018 Jacksonville versus New England game is an interesting NFL betting matchup to say the least. The New England Patriots are eight-and-a-half point favorites, playing at home at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro and have a healthy Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. This is usually the recipe for another trip to the Super Bowl for Bill Belichick’s squad.
Their surprising opponents, however, aren’t just another football team, nor are they the Jacksonville Jaguars of old. This is “Sacksonville”, a team that led the NFL with 55 sacks. They have terrifying secondary led by pro-bowlers Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye, and safeties that can cause havoc in Tashaun Gibson and Barry Church. They have allowed the second-least amount of points in the NFL.
2018 Jacksonville versus New England
The two New York Giants teams that are the reason the Patriots don’t own a perfect record and two more Super Bowls won those games by applying pressure up the middle to Tom Brady and disrupting his game plan in the pocket. If the Jaguars have any chance at all, they must do the same. It will fall on Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue, who combined for 26.5 sacks this past season, to attack Brady and pressure him into making key mistakes.
While Pittsburgh proved it was possible to put up points versus Jacksonville. The Bouye/Ramsey duo should be able to shut down Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan for most of the game. Neither Cooks nor Hogan is Antonio Brown, who while very-well covered last week, managed to sneak in two touchdowns, which were ultimately not enough to steer the Steelers to victory.
The Patriots, however, have an asset that might give the Jaguars fits all game long, and especially towards the final drives of the game, and that man is Rob Gronkowski. As someone who does not particularly enjoy seeing the Patriots succeed, I have seen far too many anger-inducing drives where Brady just finds an overpowering Gronkowski time after time until they reach the end zone. Trust me, there is nothing more frustrating.
The Patriots also have a solid run game led by Dion Lewis and a returning Rex Burkhead that was ranked 10th overall and will matchup against the 21st overall run defense. That is a nice safety blanket should Tom Brady ever need it.
In speaking of the Jaguars, we too often forget to speak of their offense, who did manage to put up the fifth most points in the NFL this season. Leonard Fournette, drafted fourth overall, has been, although often injured, a revelation for the Jaguars and Blake Bortles has been able to hold his own when it counts.
And therein lies the biggest problem for the Jaguars: Blake Bortles. The defense may be able to contain Brady enough to keep them in the game, but can Blake Bortles put up the points against an underrated Patriots’ defense? More importantly, don’t you think Bill Belichick will have a plan to limit Fournette’s ability to run the ball and put even more pressure on Bortles?
Earlier in the week I strongly believed that the Jaguars could surprise the Patriots with an upset. Time has eroded that belief. I now believe Doug Marrone’s Jaguars will keep the game close enough to be entertaining but ultimately, the Patriots will come out on top. To me, the key is not Brady Vs Bortles but Belichick Vs Bortles, which turns the tide of fate back in the Patriots’ favor.
Patriots 27, Jaguars 23
Dave Trentadue is a radio producer and reporter in Montreal, Canada. Follow @davetrentadue