After going 16-0 and establishing themselves as the best team in the NFL, here is a list of teams that could potentially knock the Patriots off their quest for 19-0.
1. The Indianapolis Colts
2. The 1985 Chicago Bears
3. The 2008 New England Patriots
Jacksonville? Nice little team. Frank Cooney probably even considers them the best in the NFL.
But to predict that these Jaguars are going to take down the 16-0 Patriots is grasping.
The bulk of Football America is tossing its support in the direction of Jack Del Rio, hoping he can end New England’s dominance on the league, coming up with any scenario they can that will bring them within closer reach of the straws.
Which should make for a long Saturday night.
Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew are going up against a run defense that ranked just 24th in the NFL this season, allowing 4.4 yards per carry. That’s got people thinking that the Jaguars can control the clock and put on some sustained drives vs. New England.
How’d that work for Pittsburgh a month ago? The Steelers ran the ball 32 times in Week 14 vs. New England for 181 yards. And yet, they lost the game, 34-13. The Patriots, by the way, rushed for 22 yards. Total.
Controlling the clock is a great way to limit the amount your opponent touches the ball. But when it’s New England’s record-setting offense, taking charge of the line of scrimmage isn’t nearly enough to pull out an upset. You have to be able to score enough to play with them on the same field. And New England scores far and away more points than anyone else in football.
Maybe Indy, with an improved defense and rollicking offense, stands a chance. But Jacksonville? Please.
Who they're picking
How folks from around the country see this weekend's Patriots-Jaguars game:
- Jim McCabe, Boston Globe: Patriots. “Word of warning to Patriot defenders. You'll need to tackle all of Maurice Jones-Drew when he has the ball - the Jones, the Drew, and the hyphen. If not, look out.”
- Boston Globe staff: Only Greg Lee picks the Jaguars with the points (13½).
- Jeremy Green, Scouts Inc.: Jaguars. "So, yes, I guess I will continue to be unfazed by the Patriots' 16-0 record. And no, I am not a fan of the Jaguars or hater of the Patriots. A fan never thinks his team can lose, but no team is invincible. In the playoffs, it's one-and-done and anything can happen. Even Jacksonville beating New England."
- Cold, Hard, Football Facts: Patriots 38, Jaguars 23. “Special teams and Big Plays are two huge strengths for Jacksonville, but both are counteracted by New England. And as the final nail in the coffin, the Patriots are healthier, and playing at home. It all adds up to an easy win on the scoreboard, although the game may well be competitive throughout. “
- Peter King, Sports Illustrated: Patriots 37, Jaguars 20. “The game in Pittsburgh look too big at times for Garrard last week, and if he has the same kind of brainlock this week that he had on his two interceptions last week, the Jags will have zero chance.”
- Dr. Z, Sports Illustrated: Patriots 34, Jaguars 24. “So Jack Del Rio and Garrard and the rest of the gang, having fallen behind by a point (and it was only Mike Tomlin's obsession with two-pointers that didn't have the Steelers up by three), must have looked into the tea leaves and seen that somehow they had angered the goddess, Fate, and they'd better do something quickly to make her happy. The quarterback draw on fourth and two did it.”
- Mike Tanier, Football Outsiders: Patriots. “The Patriots are the best team in the NFL. The Jaguars match up better against them than most teams, but no team matches up well against them. We're picking the Patriots to win this week, and next week, and two weeks after that, with all due respect to their current and future opponents.”
- Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 30, Jaguars 17. “The Jags nearly lost their lead against the Steelers last week because of late breakdowns in coverage. This team isn't built for a shootout, which is exactly what the Patriots will try to make this game.”
- Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 33, Jaguars 26. “Look for Brady to put up some big numbers as the Pats go to 17-0. David Garrard won't be able to keep up in the fourth quarter. It will be fun for lovers of offense.”
- Jeff Zillgitt, USA Today: Patriots 30, Jaguars 23. “While many think the Jaguars are just the team to beat the Patriots, I do not. Sure, Jacksonville can play in any type of weather and has just the kind of mentality to embrace any condition. It certainly doesn't mind relying on the run if it has to. We all know what Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew can do. But I didn't pick against the Patriots all season, and the bottom line is this: there's no reason to hop on the Jacksonville bandwagon now.”
- USA Today staff: Patriots across the board.
- Foxsports.com staff: Patriots across the board.
- ESPN.com: Patriots across the board (Mark Schlereth and Sean Salisbury yet to pick).
- Cris Carter, Yahoo! sports: Patriots: “The Pats will make the Jags play at a pace they don't like and force their defenders into uncomfortable positions and spacing.”
- Jay Novacek, MSNBC: Patriots, 34-17. “New England is too complete a team to stumble here.”
- Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 34, Jaguars 23. “It is conventional wisdom this week among the NFL prognosticating literati -- that or a hopeful rumor started by the '72 Dolphins -- that Saturday night is the time, and Jacksonville is the team, to end the Patriots' bid for a perfect season. Alas, much as I'd love to make a splashy pick and make Señor Shula happy by predicting a Jags win, I'd sooner bet on peace in the Middle East, the presidential election of Dennis Kucinich or a Heat playoff run.”
- Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Patriots 34, Jaguars 20. “The Jaguars better hope New England has some sort of emotional letdown after accomplishing its 16-0 feat. Either that, or hope the Steelers special teams have mysteriously hopped into Patriots uniforms.
- Jerry Magee, San Diego Tribune: Patriots. “Too many fat guys on Jacksonville's D. They'll be puffing trying to keep up with the no-huddle Tom Brady is going to be orchestrating. The 13½ is a trifle for the Pats to cover; they've been favored by an average of 18 in the past six games.”
- Terry Bannon, Chicago Tribune: Patriots 31, Jaguars 20. “Jaguars' hopes for upset ride with Taylor and their ability to control ball, keeping it away from Brady. Pats had some scares in final 6 weeks--3 wins by only field goal--and they're hardly invincible. But they'll stay perfect at home.”
- Mike Klis, The Denver Post: Patriots 34, Jaguars 17. “Patriots' player on the spot: Tom Brady. He's always on the spot. How does he handle it? Three Super Bowl rings and 16-0 offer some hint.”
- Our pick: Patriots 31, Jaguars 23. That Jaguars running game is going to be on full display for perhaps four offensive series. By then, the Jaguars are down 17-0, and forced to depend on David Garrard to lead them back. Actually, Garrard doesn’t do badly, and the Jaguars make a game of things in the third. But up by just eight points in the fourth, Brady takes over and catches Wes Welker for a touchdown that ends up being the clincher. It’s either this scenario or it could very well be 38-0. One or the other.
Other games: Seahawks 23, Packers 20. Matt Hasselbeck is going to take the ball and he’s going to score enough to end the Packers’ dream season. After the game, Brett Favre says that maybe he didn’t mean all that talk about coming back…but maybe he did, thus once again beginning our long, national nightmare.
Giants 34, Cowboys 17. Just because I can’t even begin to think of two weeks of Jessica Simpson vs. Gisele Bundchen debate.
Colts 27, Chargers 24. Game of the weekend. Adam Vinatieri makes the last-second field goal this time, setting up a slugfest next weekend in Foxborough.