What NFL experts are predicting for Sunday’s Patriots-Jaguars game

There are a lot more folks picking Jacksonville below than one might expect.

AFC Championship Patriots
A New England Patriots helmet, the AFC Championship trophy, and a Jacksonville Jaguars helmet are displayed on a podium in front of members of the media. –AP Photo/Steven Senne

COMMENTARY

The Jacksonville Jaguars can now shut up about a widespread lack of respect.

Or, does that in turn, show disrespect?

No matter how played out the bulletin board material game proves itself to be with every increasing week of the NFL postseason, the New England Patriots have been saying all the opposite things the Pittsburgh Steelers managed prior to their divisional playoff loss to the Jaguars. So now with the AFC Championship game looming Sunday in Foxborough, the Patriots have all been publicly praising their opponent’s ferocious defense.

Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith isn’t buying that trash.

Somebody alert Telvin how many folks are picking his team to advance to the Super Bowl. The disrespect is widespread.

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Or is it?

Either way, there a lot more folks picking Jacksonville below than one might expect. With or without Bryan Hoyer playing a role.

This week’s picks:

Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 27, Jaguars 17. “Tom Brady’s right hand got banged in practice this week but this pick assumes he’ll be good to go, which is to say, great to go. You see what Big Ben did to the Jags’ pass defense last week? Jax cornerback Jalen Ramsey has gumption the size of grapefruits to all but guarantee a win at New England after his unit gave up five TD passes and almost 500 yards to Roethlisberger. The Patriots’ own defense is unheralded-good, and the gulf between Brady and Blake Bortles is Grand Canyon-esque. Also, give me Belichick over Doug Marrone, please. Watch Belichick erase Leonard Fournette and force deep balls by Bortles, and watch Brady say nope-sorry to Ramsey’s boast. Jacksonville is only the second team since the 1970 merger (joining the ’06 Saints) to reach a conference champ-game after having three or fewer wins the year before. That’s a remarkable story, but, alas, one that ends here.”

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 24, Jaguars 20. “The Patriots will try and make Blake Bortles beat them. He was steady last week, and hasn’t turned the ball over in the playoffs, but this will be a real challenge. The Patriots will throw a ton of looks at him.”

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CBS Sports staff: Split vs. the spread (-9.5 New England). Five out of eight pick the Patriots straight-up.

David Steele, Sporting News: Patriots 26, Jaguars 19. “A case can be made for the Jaguars to pull this off, if everything goes perfectly. A better case can be made that the Patriots will never let that happen.”

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Jaguars 23, Patriots 20. “It takes immense defensive talent, a nasty rushing attack, fearlessness and an attitude to take down the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. These Jaguars are young and don’t know any better to think the moment is too big for them. They’ll get in Brady’s face, thwart a less explosive overall offense than that of the Steelers and keep shocking everyone on their way to Super Bowl LII.”

Neil Greenberg, Washington Post: Patriots, 66 percent. “The Jacksonville Jaguars have shut down the passing game of their opponents all season. Four of their key defensive players, defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson, and cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, were named to the Pro Bowl after the team limited opposing quarterbacks to a 68.5 passer rating against during the regular season, a mark that was 18 points better than the average defense in 2017.”

Benjamin Hoffman, New York Times: Patriots. “The Jaguars can keep up with any team, even the Patriots, on their best day, but beating New England on the road a week after upsetting the Steelers in Pittsburgh seems like a task requiring more stability than Bortles has proved he can offer. It is easy enough to pick the Patriots to win, but there is a strong chance that this game will be far closer than most people, including Las Vegas oddsmakers, expect.”

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SB Nation staff: Split.

Jimmy Kempski, Philly Voice: Patriots. “If I were the Patriots, I would have preferred to face the Steelers, crazy as that may sound. Tom Brady is 8-2 against Pittsburgh over his career, with 25 TD passes and 4 INTs. In fact, over his career, Brady’s passer rating against the Steelers is 111.8. Only the Falcons have allowed a higher passer rating (116.7) when facing Brady. The Pats just seem to own them. Even when the Steelers had them dead to rights Week 15, the Pats just found way to win, or maybe more accurately, the Steelers found a new and creative way to lose. Instead, the Pats got the Jags, who are a very dangerous opponent. If there’s a defense in the AFC playoffs with a legitimate shot at slowing down the Pats’ offense, it’s the Jags, which has a suffocating pass rush, and two excellent corners behind it. Offensively, the Jags have a rushing attack that can move the chains and eat clock. This will not be a walk in the park for New England. Ultimately, however, it’s pretty hard to get past the fact that this will be Tom Brady vs. Blake Bortles.”

USA Today staff: All Pats.

Will Brinson, CBS Sports: Jaguars. “Here’s the deal: Strip away the Jaguars uniforms (metaphorically) and pretend they’re the Broncos. Or the Vikings. Whoever you want. Are the Jags nine-point dogs to the Patriots if they’re the Broncos? Maybe so: In the 2015 AFC Championship Game, the Broncos hosted New England and they were three-point underdogs. That game provides the blueprint for beating Tom Brady and the Patriots. He has to be pressured (sacked four times against the Broncos) and you have to slow down the Patriots rushing attack, forcing Brady to throw a bunch.”

Five Thirty Eight: Patriots with an 81 percent chance of winning.

Michael Hurley, CBS Boston: Patriots. “The issue I foresee is simply with personnel. Fournette is their best player, but the Patriots never lose to a team when a running back is their best player. Going back to Marshall Faulk, through Brian Westbrook, through LaDainian Tomlinson, through Maurice Jones-Drew and Adrian Peterson, the Patriots under Bill Belichick always know how to contain the league’s highly talented backs. (Ray Rice is the exception; man, that ’09 team stunk.) The defensive line is so well-coached, so well-disciplined and so strong that the idea of Fournette carrying 40-plus times with success is hard to fathom. (Derrick Henry, for example, went from a 156-yard night in Kansas City to a 28-yard night in Foxboro. That tends to be what happens.)”

Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: Patriots 27, Jaguars 23. “What the Jags decide to do matchup-wise against the Patriots will not only be intriguing — it should decide the outcome, as well. It’s like playing Stratego, for all of you nerds out there … or something like that. Figuring out who Tom Brady is trying to get the ball to, and what Josh McDaniels’ overall plan is, makes a huge difference, because of one simple equation: Jacksonville’s talent on defense > New England’s talent on offense.”

It says here: Patriots 24, Jaguars 16. I’d be more concerned if Brady’s red glove was a red walking boot. But this won’t be easy. Much respect to the Jags. (Or…whatever.) It’ll be a Super Bowl rematch with the Philadelphia Eagles in Minnesota.

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