By Dustin Fletcher | firstname.lastname@example.org
This Sunday, a clash of two titans will occur in Jacksonville.
Emotions will be on high as the Patriots visit the Jacksonville Jaguars in what should be a heated rematch of the AFC Championship game last January.
One major factor of this game will be the availability of Jaguars star running back Leonard Fournette. Fournette rushed nine times for 41 yards last week against the Giants, however he left in the second quarter with a strained hamstring and did not return. In January, Fournette rushed the ball 24 times for 76 yards and a touchdown against the Patriots in a 24-20 loss. T.J. Yeldon was serviceable in his place averaging 3.1 yards per carry and having a receiving touchdown. Corey Grant is also on the roster and could fill in.
Blake Bortles had a strong performance last year in the playoffs against New England. On 36 attempts, he completed 23 of them for a total of 293 yards with a touchdown. He connected many times with Allen Hurns, Marquise Lee and Marcedes Lewis. However, none of them can play this week. Corey Grant was a big play machine in last year’s game and could be an X-factor if Fournette is not good to go.
The defense, as usual, is the star of the show for Jacksonville. It will be tough to get a pass rush going on Tom Brady with his average time in the pocket before releasing the ball only being 2.6 seconds. The Jags pass rush is dominant though, and we can expect to see them disrupt the offense on multiple occasions. Paired with the young and downgraded line the Patriots have compared to last year, this could be a huge advantage.
The Patriots are extremely thin at wide receiver and have less top end talent than usual. Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski are the only familiar faces split out wide from the game last year. Gronkowski was completely neutralized with only a single catch for 27 yards last year.
It’ll be interesting to see how things play out after Jalen Ramsey commented “Brady is the only thing that makes Gronk good.” That should be a fun matchup to watch when Gronkowski and Ramsey, the two best players in their positions, go head to head. Running backs Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel are both listed as questionable with a concussion and knee contusion, respectively.
Additionally, Jeremy Hill is out for the season with a torn ACL. This leaves former Super Bowl hero James White as the only completely healthy running back, and he should carry a heavy workload. Watch for an early battle at the line of scrimmage between the running games to decide this game.
Prediction: Jaguars 24-Patriots 20