Brady will play through the pain barrier

Patriots Will Edge Out Jaguars To Reach Super Bowl LII

The New England Patriots will aim to reach the Super Bowl for the second time on the bounce when they face off against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship game.

The Patriots eased past the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round. Tom Brady threw three touchdowns and 337 yards to guide his team to victory – earning the 26th playoff victory of his career. Bill Belichick’s men shutdown Marcus Mariota and Derrick Henry for the majority of the game, limiting their opponents to seven points before a garbage time score.

However, New England’s preparations have been thrown into disarray by a hand injury sustained by Brady during practice this week. The 40-year-old has been renowned for playing through the pain barrier, although on this occasion he could be limited by the ailment to his throwing hand.

The news is not welcome considering that the Patriots face one of the best defenses in the NFL. The Jaguars have reached the AFC Championship game for the first time since the 1999 campaign. They were defeated by the Tennessee Titans falling one game short of the Super Bowl.

Doug Marrone will have his team fired up to ensure that they are the ones competing for the Vince Lombardi trophy in Minnesota. The Jags put forward an outstanding performance to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road in the Divisional Round.

Blake Bortles rose to the occasion to throw for 214 yards and a touchdown, while Leonard Fournette notched three strikes on the ground. The defense gave up points, but also claimed two crucial turnovers from Ben Roethlisberger before holding the Steelers’ offense in check enough to see out the victory. However, the challenge only increases on the road against the Patriots.

New England Patriots

Brady will play through the pain barrier

Credit: AP Photo

There will be an element of concern over Brady’s injury for the Patriots as they attempt to reach the Super Bowl for the second year in a row. The 40-year-old has reportedly injured his thumb, with the media suggesting that he required stitches after colliding with a team-mate at practice. He has been officially labelled as questionable for the match. Brady will play – he always does, but whether his ability to throw downfield and into tight windows remains to be seen. The quarterback did not practice on Thursday – the day following the incident. However, he did return to action on Friday, suggesting that he will be in the huddle for his side’s opening play at Gillette Stadium.

The Patriots need their quarterback at his best against the Jacksonville defense – one of the best units in the NFL. Should Brady’s passes lack their usual velocity – it could end in one or two costly interceptions, especially with the quality of Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye in the secondary. New England’s running game has come to the fore with the emergence of Dion Lewis. The 27-year-old has been outstanding in the second half of the season. He churned up the yards against the Titans, while Rex Burkhead’s return from injury will ease the burden along with James White on short passes.

Defensively, the Patriots are far cry from the team that started the term. They were on pace to set an all-time league high for yards allowed after their opening four matches. However, they amended those issues and were stout in their surge towards the number one seed. The unit sacked Mariota eight times last week, with Deatrich Wise notching two takedowns. They also shutdown Henry and will need a similar performance against Fournette.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Fournette will be key on Sunday

The Jaguars put forward a stunning performance to defeat the Steelers last week. Few would have believed that their offense was capable of moving down the field with ease on Mike Tomlin’s men. However, between Bortles and Fournette, along with the rest of the skill players, the Jags were able to put 38 points on the board. The defense played their part with a fumble return for a touchdown and both units will have to work in cohesion once again to send the team to the Super Bowl.

Bortles has been maligned for much of the season. For good reason as the 25-year-old has struggled to complete throws downfield. The difference between this term and the last campaign has been his ability to limit his mistakes. He has been flawless against the Buffalo Bills and the Steelers – that has to continue in New England as any mistake will be pounced upon. Fournette will be vital on the ground as he has been throughout his rookie year. The 23-year-old is battling an ankle injury, which limited him in the second half of the Steelers clash. However, he is capable of finding yardage against New England’s defense and more importantly shortening the contest.

The key to deciding the AFC Championship will be the display of the Jaguars’ defense. They allowed Pittsburgh back into the match, although the unit did respond with a couple of crucial holds in the second half. They will not be able to stop Brady and the Patriots, but there is a possibility of limiting them. New England have had issues against teams that can rush with only four players and tight coverage in the secondary. Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue can provide the pressure – but will it be enough?

Betting Options

The Patriots are 18-3 in home playoff matches with Brady as their quarterback. They’ve only been beaten by the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium in the post-season since Belichick and the quarterback arrived in Foxborough. It highlights the challenge the Jaguars face to knock off the reigning champions. Jacksonville have played two playoff matches in New England in that era and have been handily beaten on both occasions. Their defense has talent, but not enough to stop Rob Gronkowski through the air and Lewis on the ground.

Expect the duo to put points on the board to take the game away from Marrone’s men. Back New England to advance at odds of -313   with BetOnline. The spread has been dropped slightly since Brady’s injury. Take the +7 line for New England at odds of -110   with Betway. Even with his ailment, Brady should be able to put points on the board with the aid of Gronkowski, Lewis, Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola. Take them to score over 26 points at odds of -110   with Betway. White has been a force in the endzone for New England, adding another two post-season scores to his collection last week. Back him at +225   with BetVictor to find the endzone on Sunday.

Tips Summary

New England Patriots To Beat Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday 21st January 2018 15:05 ET (20:05 GMT)
Odds: -313

Take +7 Spread New England Patriots
Sunday 21st January 2018 15:05 ET (20:05 GMT)
Odds: -110

New England Patriots To Score Over 26 Points
Sunday 21st January 2018 15:05 ET (20:05 GMT)
Odds: -110

James White To Score Touchdown Anytime
Sunday 21st January 2018 15:05 ET (20:05 GMT)
Odds: +225

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