Jaguars vs. Patriots: How the two teams match up in the AFC championship
Reporters looking to get some meaningful information on the condition of Tom Brady’s throwing hand came away, well, empty-handed from Friday’s news conference.
In typical New England Patriots fashion, Brady revealed absolutely nothing. His media availability opened with the following exchange:
Q: How is your hand?
Brady: I’m not talking about it.
Q: Thumbs up or thumbs down for Sunday?
Brady: We’ll see.
Q: Did you throw any footballs today?
Brady: I’m not talking about that.
Q: Did you practice today?
Brady: I was out there.
Q: Were you out there for the entire practice?
Q: How was practice?
Brady: It was fun.
The Hall of Fame-bound quarterback didn’t practice Thursday, was limited Friday, and was listed as questionable for Sunday’s AFC championship against Jacksonville — although does anyone actually believe he won’t be out there?
According to Mike Felger of WBZ in Boston, the quarterback received four stitches in his right hand after accidentally striking a teammate’s helmet in practice Wednesday, and the injury should not have a big impact on Brady’s availability.
Jacksonville’s Malik Jackson is operating on the theory that the Patriots are sandbagging, and that Brady isn’t actually hurt.
“I remember LeSean McCoy said he had a high ankle sprain and came out there cutting and stuff,” Jackson said this week on “PFT Live” about the Buffalo Bills running back.
He suggested the same might be true of Brady throwing.
Stopping Brady is clearly the key to beating the Patriots.
“We have to go rush the quarterback,” Jackson said on the show. “Also, we have to make sure we press the pocket up the middle because he likes to step up in the middle or that’s where he feels comfortable standing behind that center. That’s what I told our [defensive] line. We have to make sure that we create pressure, have to rally and tackle and just frustrate him. He is 40, so we can hit him.”
Stand by me
Jacksonville rookie running back Leonard Fournette had to briefly leave last Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh because of a chronic ankle injury. It’s vital for him to stay healthy against the Patriots.
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles is far more effective with Fournette on the field. According to NFL research, Bortles had 15 touchdowns and three interceptions this season with Fournette in the game. But when Fournette was out, the touchdowns dropped to seven and the interceptions ballooned to 10.
1-10 — Jaguars’ record against the Patriots, including postseason.
4 — NFL franchises that have never advanced to the Super Bowl: Jacksonville, Cleveland, Houston, Detroit.
4 — Career 1,000-yard receiving seasons by Rob Gronkowski, tying him with Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten for the most by an NFL tight end.
7 — Number of teams Brady has never lost to in the regular season. He’s 5-0 against the Jaguars.
8-0 — Jacksonville’s record this season when Bortles does not commit a turnover.
10 — Teams since 1990 that have beaten the top two seeds in their conference in the same postseason. Jaguars aim to be the 11th.
22 — Takeaways by the Jaguars in nine road games this season, best in the NFL and best in club history.
By the numbers
How teams compare statistically. All stats are per-game averages, except for sacks and turnover differential, which are for the season (league rank in parentheses):
Jacksonville: 26.1 (5) New England: 28.6 (T2)
Jacksonville: 16.8 (2) New England: 18.5 (5)
Jacksonville: 224.6 (17) New England: 276.1 (2)
Jacksonville: 141.4 (1) New England: 118.1 (10)
Jacksonville: 169.9 (1) New England: 251.2 (30)
Jacksonville: 116.2 (21) New England: 114.8 (20)
Jacksonville: 55 (2) New England: 42 (T7)
Jacksonville: 58.5 (18) New England: 60.1 (T22)
Jacksonville: +10 (T5) New England: +6 (11)
JAGUARS — QUESTIONABLE: Safety Tashaun Gipson (foot).
PATRIOTS — QUESTIONABLE: Quarterback Brady (right hand), defensive tackle Alan Branch (knee), running back Rex Burkhead (knee), running back Mike Gillislee (knee), tackle LaAdrian Waddle (knee).
This is not a good matchup for the Patriots, particularly with the pressure Jacksonville can bring up the middle against Brady. If the Jaguars can avoid turnovers and play keep-away with Fournette, they can shock the world.
JAGUARS 31, PATRIOTS 27
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer
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