It’s conference championship Sunday, the day of football I really live for as a football fan. Of course the Super Bowl is the Super Bowl, but it’s also more of an exhibition feel while the championship games take place at home venues packed with home fans and the celebrations are alway a full team party. Yes, we have to get there first and I’m still trying to imagine explaining to summer ’17 Mike how nervous I am that it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars standing between the Pats and SB52.
But here we are… back in this great game for a seventh-straight time. In 2011 it took a miracle ending to avoid overtime with the Ravens. In 2014 and 2016 it was pretty much a cake walk. In 2013 and 2015 the banged up Pats just couldn’t quite get past the Broncos in Denver.
And then there’s 2012. 2012 is the game that scares me just because it was the only time the Pats lost an AFCCG at home. That Ravens team got a perfect outing from Joe Flacco and their defense was at the height of its powers. Everything lined up just right for the Ravens and they dominated the second half. Can this Jags replicate that game? I don’t think so, but they certainly have defensive talent.
The Jags line to victory is clear — don’t turn it over and force Brady into an early mistake that doesn’t allow him to ever get comfortable. Then, maybe then, the Jags can put forth the kind of 60 minutes of fearless and mistake-free football needed to beat the Patriots at home in the AFC Championship. But it’s going to take a special effort and a complete meltdown by the Pats in all three phases.
But let’s be honest, we WANT to be nervous today. What fun would it be if we all just convinced ourselves that this is a pop warner team that the Pats will roll by 40-plus points? So for the next few hours I’ll continue to imagine the perfect Blake Bortles game, a young defense that is all over the Pats right off the snap, while Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead are hit in the backfield over and over.
All I know is that I never would’ve predicted the Pats laying a 28-3 egg in the Super Bowl, so who knows, maybe it could just be the Jags day today?
Alright, I feel like I sufficiently worried myself just enough. Here’s a bunch of other pregame thoughts…