The New England Patriots host the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday in the AFC Championship, for the right to represent the conference in Super Bowl 52. It’s New England’s seventh-straight conference championship game, trying to win three-of-four Super Bowls for the second time with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Crazy.
This was a weird year in the NFL as the power structure, aside from the Patriots, has mostly been turned over. After years of being a punchline, the Jaguars introduced their fully-healthy defense to the league behind sporadic but effective Blake Bortles, who has played two playoff games of turnover-free football. For all the talk of the Jags’s defense being the only threat, their offense was 5th in points and 6th in yards.
Pats-Jags doesn’t have the same feel as AFC Championships against the Colts, Ravens and Broncos , but the Jaguars have earned the right to become the latest contender to try and knock off Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at home in the AFCCG, something only the 2012 Ravens did.
Tom Brady’s apparent thumb injury adds a new level of intrigue, with the Patriots being noticeably feeding the flames. Ryan Hannable summed it up nicely here.
What do the Patriots need to do to beat the Jaguars and get back to the ‘ship? Here’s the gameplan.