With just one more contest separating each team from fighting for the championship at Super Bowl LII, the Jacksonville Jaguars head to Foxboro, Massachusetts, to take on the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game (3:05 PM ET Sunday on CBS).
When the Patriots and Jaguars met in the first preseason game of the 2017-18 season, it was hard to imagine the two would be meeting again, this time with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. This won’t be the first time however that New England and Jacksonville are meeting in the AFCs biggest game of the season, as the two faced off in the 1996 AFC Championship game as well. The Patriots easily won that one, 20-6, in what was their first time hosting the conference championship.
Overall, the Patriots have never lost to the Jaguars during the seven times the teams have met in the regular season and have only one loss against them over their four playoff meetings. New England has won each of the last two however, with the most recent victory coming in a 31-20 final during the 2007 AFC divisional playoff round.
The two teams haven’t met in two years, with New England holding the most recent victory, a completely lopsided 51-17 final. That game marked the 10th time, playoffs included, that New England triumphed at home. Overall, the Patriots have never lost to the Jaguars when playing in front of their loyal fanbase.
A lot has changed in that time and following Jacksonville’s somewhat upset victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, this team could be poised to pull off an incredible shocker on Sunday afternoon.
Road to the Championship: New England
No stranger to playing into January, the Patriots actually opened their season with a surprising loss to the Kanas City Chiefs. The defending Super Bowl champions were big favorites with the online sportsbooks but ended up on the wrong side of a 42-27 final. The loss was eye-opening as it exposed the Patriots as being human after all.
New England won their next two games before losing yet again at Gillette Stadium, this time to the Carolina Panthers. The game was decided by a field goal but marked the first time in a long time, in which the Patriots were no greater than a .500 team so early in the season.
Unsurprisingly however, the team led by future Hall of Fame coach Bill Belichick, and quarterback Tom Brady, found its footing, winning eight games in a row over a two month span. Overall, the Patriots won 11 of their last 12 to end the regular season and excelled as one of the NFL’s best teams during that span.
The five-time Super Bowl champions, New England ended the year boasting the top offense in the league in terms of total yards and yards per game, second in passing yards and passing yards per game, and second in total points and points per game, averaging just over 28.5 per contest.
Historically speaking, the Patriots feel like a lock to win on Sunday as this is their seventh straight AFC Championship game appearance, a truly remarkable accomplishment. It is their 14th overall in team history, and eighth time hosting including the fifth in the last seven years. Overall, New England is 9-4 in the conference championship, including a 5-1 mark when playing in front of the fans at Gillette. Those are the sort of stats that are hard to ignore when considering our preview’s concluding Jaguars vs New England Patriots predictions and betting picks. Or are they?
Road to the Championship: Jacksonville
For years, the Jaguars were the butt of the jokes, and coming off a season where they won just three games, not much was expected of Jacksonville again in 2017. Punctuated by a nine game losing streak and losses in nine of their last 10, the Jaguars were given such low expectations. As it would turn out, the team would more than exceed them as they put together their best season in quite some time.
The Jaguars traded wins and losses for the first seven weeks of the season leading up to their bye at which point everything began to change. Jacksonville won each of their first three following the late October week off and went on a stretch that saw them victorious in six of seven.
Jacksonville lost their last two of the season but by that point, they had locked up their AFC South title, the first in their over 15-year history of being in that division. It was a big step forward for the Jaguars, but the team took an even bigger one as they won both of their postseason games, including beating the Pittsburgh Steelers for the second time this season.
Boasting the NFL’s second best overall defense and scoring defense, as well as top passing defense, the Jaguars excelled thanks to their ball-hawking secondary. Only the Baltimore Ravens had more interceptions on the year, surpassing Jacksonville’s total of 21 by just one. The Jaguars’ defensive success wasn’t limited to down the field however, as the front seven was one of the most dangerous to opposing quarterbacks in all of football. Jacksonville or Sacksonville as they came to be nicknamed, finished with the second most sacks in the league, a total of 55.
Our Betting Preview’s Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots Picks & Predictions
Just like they did last week, the oddsmakers have the Patriots as pretty heavy favorites (between seven and eight points) but that shouldn’t stop bettors looking to put money on the home team. New England is an impressive 10-1 ATS in their last 11, making them the only team in the last six years to cover the spread at least 10 times in an 11 game span. This is certainly familiar territory for the Patriots, but Jacksonville has shown the spotlight isn’t too big for them either.
The biggest thing to follow with the Patriots is the status of Tom Brady. With 21 touchdowns and just two interceptions at home, as well as an incredible postseason success rate, Brady is the key to how far New England goes in their quest for a second consecutive championship. His status for the game is unknown, thanks to a collision with a teammate that required him to have his hand stitched up.
The injury is probably nothing and anyone would be hard-pressed to say he misses the game. But, his effectiveness could be in question and could possibly be just the opening Jacksonville needs to have a shot at one of the biggest upsets in playoff memory.
That being said, this is Brady and 100 percent or not, he is one of the best to play the game and will see his NFL legacy continued on Sunday. So to this preview’s picks, these are our Jacksonville Jaguars vs New England Patriots predictions for the AFC Championship game:
- Pick the Patriots to cover. There are a few different betting options to ponder here. What we advise is New England -7pts @ odds of -115 with 5Dimes. Next best at that same spread is -120 with Intertops. You can also get -7.5pts @ +100 with MyBookie. That looks good given it is -8pts @ -110 with Bovada.
- Our prediction on the total points to be scored in this NFL game is to bet on the over 45pts, particularly given both teams have played to the over quite consistently as of late. The best value with the sportsbooks for this selection is over 45pts @ -110 with any of Bovada, Intertops, 5Dimes or MyBookie.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.