Jaguars vs Patriots – AFC Championship Pick for January 21st
I went 1-1 with my NFL playoff picks last week, as the Pats easily covered against the Titans, but Atlanta couldn’t find a way to top the Eagles. It probably wouldn’t have mattered even if the Falcons had scored late to come out on top, as I needed them to edge Philly by 3 to get the win.
I’ll take the .500 run, however, while the 1-1 record from last week pushes me to 10-11 on the year with my NFL picks. I’d only been handing out one game per week prior to the playoffs, so I rode and died with my favorite choices each week.
That’s the reasoning for a low pick count, but I’m confident if I had more volume the record would be considerably better. Regardless, I’ve really turned things around after a horrid 1-5 start. Since then I’m a strong 9-6, while my mark is even better (8-4) over my last 12 picks.
Enough about my success rate on the year, though. Obviously, my picks have been relatively shaky overall, but I think I have a good feel for this weekend’s AFC title game. The New England Patriots play host after dispatching the Tennessee Titans and Bovada and other top NFL betting sites have them as big favorites.
Their line started at -10 at some sites, but -9 was a popular spread you’d find earlier in the week.
That was until star quarterback Tom Brady banged his hand in practice. Now the lines have moved and there is some doubt about his effectiveness come Sunday. Naturally, there is some cause for pause for bettors.
I’m not really biting on that, but I do find it a little annoying that Vegas is allowing it to impact how they’re calling this game. The spread has dropped by as much as two points for several sites, leaving Bovada as the best site right now to bet on if you’re favoring the Jags to beat the spread (+8).
Of course, if you love New England, then you’ll want to target a site with a -7.5 spread like BetOnline.
Personally, I think what Jacksonville showed everyone in Pittsburgh was the real deal. I don’t know if that gets them a win to advance to their first-ever Super Bowl game, but I do tend to think it keeps this game close. The big question, of course, is if it’ll stay close enough to beat that +8 spread at Bovada:
The New England Patriots are absurd. This will mark a ridiculous 7th consecutive trip to the AFC Championship game and when they’ve played this game on their own field the last four times, they’ve gone 3-1.
The Pats have all of the talent, home field advantage, coaching and experience you could want or need. Dion Lewis has morphed into a stud do-it-all running back, while New England has a strong stable of versatile rushers behind him, as well.
New England continued to thrive through the air in 2017, too, as Tom Brady helped the Pats finish second in total passing and 1st overall in total yardage. Brady’s stellar play hit a snag late in the regular season, but he returned to form with 3 scores and over 300 passing yards against Tennessee.
There are two big problems facing the Pats (not including Brady’s hand issue); the Jags have an elite defense and New England doesn’t.
As great as the Pats can be on offense, they’re going up against a very talented defense that ranked #2 in sacks, #1 against the pass, #2 in total defense and #2 in points allowed per game.
The classic offense vs. defense battle will be on full display and it’s possible Brady and company get stifled here. Even if that doesn’t happen, it’s fairly likely they’re at least slowed down.
It’s not like it’d be some shocking development. The Patriots were gotten to by defenses a few times during the regular season, while they’ve had meltdowns in big playoff games in the past, too. A 20-18 loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC title game two years ago might be the best example of that.
I still believe in the Patriots. Their offense is dynamic and the duo of Brady and Bill Belichick isn’t one to bet against. Not straight up, at least.
This is a pretty big spread when you consider that Jacksonville’s defense is fairly scary and the Patriots tend to play huge games on the closer side. They needed OT to complete a crazy comeback in last year’s Super Bowl, while 5 of their last 9 playoff games have been decided by a touchdown or less.
The point here is the Patriots are not invincible. They can be had and this is not exactly an easy matchup.
That’s more obvious when you look at the other side, as the Jags also mash opponents on the ground. Stud rookie rusher Leonard Fournette leads the league’s #1 rush offense. That unit was virtually responsible for last week’s upset win in Pittsburgh, too, as Fournette topped 100 yards rushing and saw the end-zone three times.
It looks even worse on paper when you factor in New England’s shaky 20th-ranked run defense. Kareem Hunt exposed their front line right away in week one and the Pats have struggled to keep their head above water against the run ever since.
The only thing that makes the Jags a bad play is Blake Bortles. He has looked awful at times in his career – and even this season – but he was fine last week and has shown glimpses of solid ability. The silver lining for him, of course, is he has an elite defense and an elite running game backing him.
It’s not crazy to think Bortles keep improving as he grows confidence, plus a date with New England’s weak pass defense (30th!) doesn’t hurt.
Ultimately, I think the Pats win this game. They’re at home, they’ve been here before, they have the far better quarterback and I think their defense has improved a bit as the season has gone one. They’re still the favorites to repeat as champions, too.
That being said, this spread is a bit rich and I expect a close game. There’s also the very real possibility Jacksonville overwhelms them just like they did with the Steelers. Either way, I like this game to stay within a touchdown and at Bovada (+8) that will get you a win with the Jags.