Who can forget Jets 28, Patriots 21 in the 2011 NFL playoffs? I sure can’t, as it was one of the best NFL victories I’ve enjoyed for a team I root for.
The Jets were 9.5 point underdogs, the weather was a balmy 30 degrees. The Jets had a young, inaccurate QB, a strong running game, and a fierce defense.
And yet the Jets prevailed, mostly thanks to a hellacious defense that sacked Brady five times, forced two fumbles, and intercepted a pass.
The Jaguars are 9-point underdogs, and the weather forecast is high 40s. Blake Bortles, like Sanchez, was a Top 5 draft choice, but woefully inconsistent. Those Jets were #4 in the NFL in rushing yards and rushing yards per game; these Jaguars are 1st in both categories.
The big difference, and where I think it hurts the Jaguars more than it did the Jets, is run defense. This is where Belichick will exploit the Jaguars. They are susceptible to the run – 21st in rush yards allowed per game. They held Le’Veon Bell under 70 yards in both meetings with Pittsburgh, but that was largely because the Steelers were behind in both games and had to pass to get back in it.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the Patriots came out with a steady diet of Dion Lewis on the ground, and avoid having Tom Brady challenge the best cornerback tandem in the NFL, AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey. And Bouye is familiar with Brady – he was part of a Houston defense last year that gave Brady fits in Foxborough in January. Lewis will draw the speedy linebackers, Telvin Smith and Myles Jack, in, and if Gronkowski is left one-on-one against the Jaguars safeties, it’ll be a long day.
And lastly, Jacksonville has the Tom Coughlin factor. He’s beaten Bill Belichick twice as head coach of the Giants in the Super Bowl. Both times, his defensive front got to Brady without much blitzing needed.