Game Predictions & Player Projections - JAC vs. NE

David Dorey, @DMDorey

Prediction: JAC 16, NE 27

(Line: NE by 9.5, O/U = 46.5)

UPDATE: Leonard Fournette was limited in practices to rest his ankle but is not on the final injury report. Rex Burkhead was also limited all week and is questionable on the injury report but is expected to play a minor role. Mike Gillislee is also questionable and was limited throughout but is less likely to play. He was the same status last week and wasn't active.

Tom Brady is the big question mark if only because there are really no other question marks. He hit his hand on a teammate's helmet and needed four stitches in his finger. He was held out on Thursday and then limited on Friday. He is expected to play without limitation but these are the Patriots who are famed for misleading or outright false injury information. There are no reasons to change the current projections.

The Patriots go to their seventh straight AFC Championship game and by now their team name should be said with an echo effect. They have not lost at home since Week 4. They are the only team that won in the Divisional round in a laugher. The Jaguars were only 4-4 on the road in the regular season and their win in Pittsburgh, again, was a big upset that no one saw coming.

It is unusual for a Conference Championship to be so heavily favored towards one team. But not as surprising as the Jaguars hanging 45 points in a road game last week.

The forecast is for 48 degrees, partly cloudy and almost no wind. Weather will not be a factor.

Jacksonville Jaguars

1 @HOU 29-7 11 @CLE 19-7
2 TEN 16-37 12 @ARI 24-27
3 BAL 44-7 13 IND 30-10
4 @NYJ 20-23 OT 14 SEA 30-24
5 @PIT 30-9 15 HOU 45-7
6 LAR 17-27 16 @SF 33-44
7 @IND 27-0 17 @TEN 10-15
8 BYE xxx 18 BUF 10-3
9 CIN 23-7 19 @PIT 45-42
10 LAC 20-17 OT      
News | Statistics | Roster
JAC at NE Rush Catch Pass
QB Blake Bortles 40   240,1
RB Leonard Fournette 60 3-30  
RB T.J. Yeldon 10 2-10  
WR Marqise Lee   4-60  
WR Dede Westbrook   2-40  
WR Allen Hurns   2-20  
WR Keelan Cole   7-60,1  
TE Marcedes Lewis   1-10  
PK Josh Lambo 3 FG 1 XP  

Pregame Notes: These playoffs are starting to be the Year of the Underdog. Or at least the "disrespected" since that has fueled more than one upset this month. The Jags are no great road team and at best play inconsistently on offense. But for reasons that are hard to fathom, they apparently own the Steelers. It was evident that the Steelers were overly confident of a win last week and the Jaguars were motivated. What rewrites all expectations and perceptions is that the Jags can win a shootout. And also that they have allowed over 40 points in two of their last four games.

QUARTERBACK: Blake Bortles did the one mandatory thing to help the Jaguars win - stay out of the way. He only threw for 214 yards and one score in the win over the Steelers and just 87 yards and one touchdown versus the Bills. But he had no turnovers in either matchup. He's been as good as 382 yards and two scores just four weeks ago in San Francisco and he had a full and healthy complement of receivers. But which Bortles shows up is one of the biggest coin flips and yet perhaps the most critical to the success of the team.

RUNNING BACK: Leonard Fournette aggravated his right ankle sprain last week but taped it up at halftime and likely had so much pain killer injected that he couldn't feel anything below his knee. It worked. The rookie had his career-best game with 109 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries and two receptions for ten yards. Fournette had been slowed for the three previous weeks because of his ankle and usual rookie fatigue but ran strong against the Steelers.

T.J. Yeldon rarely offered more than a handful of yards each week but he ran for 20 yards and a score on five carries last week and caught three passes for 57 yards thanks to a 40-yard gain in the fourth quarter. Yeldon only totaled three yards the previous week versus the Bills. The Jags even threw a 14-yard touchdown to fullback Tommy Bohanon only his only catch in the last ten weeks.

WIDE RECEIVER: The depressed passing stats in the two playoff games had an obvious impact on the wideouts. None of them have scored or totaled more than 48 yards in any game. Keelan Cole made a huge 45-yard gain on his only catch that set up a fourth-quarter touchdown. Marqise Lee has dealt with a minor foot injury and was blanked against the Bills and then ended with just three receptions for 28 yards last week. Dede Westbrook and Allen Hurns also remain involved. This unit should be more involved this week against the weaker Patriots secondary. It is unlikely that the Jaguars can remain in the game without throwing deeper passes.

TIGHT END: No fantasy value..

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: Blake Bortles hasn't done much in recent weeks and on the road he's been much less effective in all but the one game in San Francisco. The Patriots started the year out weak against the pass but have much improved, particularly when at home. Over the last six home games, they only gave up three passing touchdowns total and cranked up the sacks with 25 over just the last four home games. As enticing as the rankings seem to suggest, the reality is that the Pats have been very good at home versus the pass.

Last week, they allowed Marcus Mariota to throw for 254 yards and two scores but the Titans had no rushing effort and Mariota had to throw 37 passes. Bortles could manage one score here. He's inconsistent but against even average secondaries, he's remained mostly ineffective.

Any passing score strongly favors a wideout but that could end up with any of the four. And the Pats have not allowed a visiting 100-yard receiver since Week 4. This should be yet another game with each receiver contributing something and none of them doing a lot.

The Pats shut down Derrick Henry (12-28) last week. They only allowed one home rushing touchdown since the season opener. Fournette will be more challenged this week than last. He's very unlikely to repeat the 25 carries since no visitor had more than 17 there. Considering the impressive sack totals of the Pats in recent home games, it is unlikely that the running backs do much receiving since they'll need to help in pass protection.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points JAC 19 3 18 28 12 1
Preventing Fantasy Points NE 26 16 29 13 6 8

New England Patriots

1 KC 27-42 10 @DEN 41-16
2 @NO 36-20 11 @OAK 33-8
3 HOU 36-33 12 MIA 35-17
4 CAR 30-33 13 @BUF 23-3
5 @TB 19-14 14 @MIA 20-27
6 @NYJ 24-17 15 @PIT 27-24
7 ATL 23-7 16 BUF 37-16
8 LAC 21-13 17 NYJ 26-6
9 BYE xxx 19 TEN 35-14
News | Statistics | Roster
NE vs. TEN Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady     250,2
RB Dion Lewis 60 5-30,1  
RB James White   4-40  
RB Rex Burkhead 30,1 1-10  
WR Brandin Cooks   2-30  
WR Danny Amendola   4-40  
WR Philip Dorsett   1-10  
TE Rob Gronkowski   6-60,1  
PK S. Gostkowski 2 FG 3 XP

Pregame Notes: The Patriots fell behind to start the Titans matchup but no one expected that to last and true to form, the Patriots recorded the biggest win of the weekend. Aside from some of the gaggle of running backs, the Pats are healthier now than they were at this time last year. That opens up more weapons for Tom Brady to use and diversifies the offense. That will be important for a game like this week where the Jaguars bring in shutdown corners and the ability to limit targeted players.

QUARTERBACK: Tom Brady Had one of his better games when he passed for 337 yards and three touchdowns last week. He's been a near lock to throw for more than one score in a home game. Of his 35 scores this year, 21 came in home games. Brady hasn't faced many defenses that feature as formidable of a secondary as the Jaguars. And his previous three home games never produced more than 227 passing yards.

RUNNING BACK: Rex Burkhead is expected to return this week from his knee injury and he'll make the backfield a bit less certain. Last week, Brandon Bolden ran for 27 yards on four carries and scored once playing the "Burkhead" role as the No. 3 back. Burkhead scored in each of his last four games before leaving injured in Week 16. Dion Lewis was on a three-game streak for touchdowns and saw greater use without Burkhead there. While he did not score on the Titans, he ran for 62 yards and caught a season-best nine passes for 79 yards.

James White apparently was built for January. He was the star of the Super Bow and then ran in his first score of the year last week on only four runs for 11yards. He added four receptions for 29 yards and a second touchdown.

WIDE RECEIVER: Brandin Cooks totaled seven scores this year but has been very inconsistently used. He was held to only three catches for 32 yards by the Titans last week but managed 79 yards and a score versus the Jets the previous week. His only consistency has been that he rarely turns in similar stats for two straight weeks. Chris Hogan was active for the first time since Week 14 and caught a 4-yard touchdown on his only catch. But he was thrown four targets and only managed the single catch.

Danny Amendola turned in a season-best 11 receptions for 112 yards last week which was more than this three previous games combined. He only scored twice this year and never in the last two months.

TIGHT END: Rob Gronkowski added another touchdown to his stellar post-season totals when he caught six passes for 81 yards. He's been a lock to score in home games since midseason and bounces between 50 and 80 yards each time.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: Not to downplay the strength of the Jaguars secondary or overall defense, but their top rankings were helped by facing a lot of bad offenses. BAL, IND (2), CIN, CLE, ARI, TEN (2), HOU (2) and BUF hardly challenged anyone this year. On the road recently, they allowed Blaine Gabbert (241, 2 TD), Jimmy Garoppolo (242, 2 TD) and Ben Roethlisberger (469, 5 TD) to have bigger than usual games. Weather is no factor and the Pats are at home with a diverse complement of receivers. No reason to expect less than moderate to good passing yardage and two scores from Tom Brady.

The Jaguars only allowed two 100-yard rushers this year. But they gave up five scores to running backs over their last three road games including big yardage games for both Derrick Henry and Le'Veon Bell. The tough part is where the rushing touchdown comes from - all three backs are capable. And the scoreboard will determine the amount of rushing but that's highly likely to be higher than usual this week. The Jags blew up on the Steelers but just have their number. They haven't been nearly so effective against other defenses.

How they distribute their cornerbacks could differ in this matchup and could change throughout the game. In natural positions, Jalen Ramsey draws Chris Hogan and AJ Bouye faces Brandin Cooks. That makes either a big risk for a bad game and even against average defenses, they've not been major factors.

What changes here is how they defend Gronkowski. That could easily draw in either corner.

Notable too is that in the last two road games, the Jags gave up a passing score to a running back. And Vance McDonald became the surprise star last week when the Steelers completed 10 passes for 112 yards with their No. 2 tight end. Gronk is always reliable for a good game at home and the only question is if they devote enough to slowing him that the wideouts actually end up relevant.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points NE 6 2 16 4 3 23
Preventing Fantasy Points JAC 2 10 1 10 4 10

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