The 2017 AFC Championship was a very entertaining one score game. The New England Patriots defended their home field in Foxboro Massachusetts on January 21 where they outlasted the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-20. A few things have changed since then, a few key players have changed hands, but for the most part, the teams are very familiar with each other.
Jacksonville is prepping to redeem themselves after a bone-crushing fourth-quarter loss. It was a loss that saw them allow New England to convert a 3rd and 18 which seized the momentum in the game and could be referenced into New England’s monumental comeback. Jacksonville is looking to erase all those memories and also jump out to a 2-0 start to the season.
New England is looking to show off their improved defense, their new defensive coordinator and their new faces in the wide receiving core. Both teams are a little different and the significance of the game isn’t quite so monumental, but both teams are looking to assert their dominance as the top team in a rather wide-open AFC. Here are some of the things that have changed and things that will need to change for both teams to win this matchup.
New England Patriots:
One of the weaker points the New England Patriots have is their defense year in and year out. This season they are under new leadership. This season the Patriots don’t actually have a defensive coordinator yet. They have Brian Flores calling the plays, but they do not have someone listed as a defensive coordinator. With that being said, the defensive group looked better than many expected at home against the Texans week one.
The defense gave up 167 yards rushing and 176 yards passing. Deshaun Watson completed 17/34 with an interception and a passing touchdown. He had a 62.9 passer rating and also fumbled the ball in his eight rushing attempts. Despite them giving up 20 points, they gave up just six in the first half, and of the two touchdowns they gave up in the second half one was due to a short field. Riley McCarron, the punt returner, muffed a punt giving the Texans 1st and 10 from the New England 17 yard line.
If you exclude that touchdown, they played very well. With the Patriots being one of the teams that turn the football over the least in football (eight interceptions and 13 total fumbles in 2017), the defense doesn’t have to worry too often about getting a short field.
Allen Robinson, Mercedes Lewis, Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns will all be missing from the field on Sunday. Allen Hurns will be lacing them up for the Cowboys, Allen Robinson will be doing the same for the Bears and Mercedes Lewis will be in Green Bay. Marqise Lee resides on IR and almost all of Blake Bortles’ pass catchers have been replaced. Now he is throwing to young guys Dede Westbrook, Donte Moncrief and Keelan Cole. Bortles will still be trying to get acquainted with a new group of guys.
Same old Bortles:
In the AFC Championship, last season Bortles went 23-36 with 293 yards a touchdown and no interceptions. The team as a whole didn’t have a turnover and they, in many cases, played a flawless game. At the same time, this Patriot defense has improved.
Bortles had one of his best games in his short career in the 2017 AFC Championship. He moved the ball well and took advantage of a weak secondary. He has home field advantage but less familiar wide receivers and a tougher defense this time around.
It’s too early to claim that the Patriots defense is different, but we can only go from what we have seen so far. The Patriots win in a close one here, 24-20 yet again. New England will turn it over just one time and the Jaguars will turn it over twice and both of them will prove costly. The improvement of the Patriots’ defense will cause a few more problems for Bortles this time around.
Featured image from Patriots Wire, USA Today.
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