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2018 AFC Championship Game [Expert Predictions]

The New England Patriots will be attempting head to their eighth Super Bowl in the Bill Belichick era when they host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. Read on to get an expert prediction on this game.

New England Patriots vs Jacksonville Jaguars Predictions

When: January 21, 2018, 3:05 PM ET
Where: Gillette Stadium
Spread: Patriots -9.5
Total: 46.5
Moneyline: Patriots -430 vs Jaguars +340

Why the Jacksonville Jaguars can win the game

Who could have imagined the Jacksonville Jaguars reaching so far into the playoffs? Yet, they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers not once but twice to get to the AFC Championship game.

This will be the first time in the franchise’s history in a Super Bowl should they win, but to make it past the most dominant team in this era will require a titanic effort and play a great game.

Jacksonville will have to stick to their guns and play a strong defensive effort to minimize the Patriots offensive onslaught.

The best they could hope for would be to pressure Tom Brady and rush him into making bad throws which has been a successful strategy for teams that beat Brady’s offense this past regular season.

The defense must rise to the occasion, but its falling numbers during their last four games on the road, giving up an average of 32 points per game has to be improved.

At this point in the competition and with the level of opponent they face, it’s going to take more than antics to win the game.

On offense, Blake Bortles has done a good job this year when supported by a solid defense and the addition of an effective running game with running back Leonard Fournette in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Bortles will have to avoid though, turning the ball over in order to have a better shot at making it past this game.

Key Jaguars Betting Trends

  • Jacksonville is 9-3 SU in its last 12 games
  • The total has gone OVER in 4 of Jacksonville's last 6 games
  • Jacksonville is 8-4 ATS in its last 12 games on the road

Now for a healthy dose of reality; the Jaguars are facing the best team of the era, defeating them will require a titanic effort, willpower, and luck.

You can trust Bill Belichick to have been relentlessly pushing his Patriots to get ready for this exact kind of a game situation. Belichick is not one to underestimate his opponent.

The Jaguars will need to play their best defense, Blake Bortles will have to play as a Super Bowl level quarterback, and Leonard Fournette will have to give one of the best performances of his career in his rookie year.

Why the New England Patriots can win the game

One could say the Patriots are accustomed to playing this game. After all, it’s their seventh consecutive AFC title game.

Now, while you might think this gives them more confidence to the point of cockiness, you might want to ask the Steelers what they thought about the Jaguars before they won the game.

What I mean is, the Patriots will not make the mistake of underestimating their Jaguars; a fact that was shown in the merciless beating of their previous opponent, the Titans, who they beat 35-14.

Despite the naysayers claiming Tom Brady’s sure downfall, the quarterback answered back by completing 35 of 53 attempts for 337 yards and three touchdowns.

His performance though was allowed because of good pass protection, which needless to say Brady will have to have to get the job done.

What’s more, though Brady threw on 53 occasions the Patriots also ran for 101 yards on 27 carries.

The Patriots will use both a ground and air attack to test for Jaguars’ weaknesses, and once they find one they’ll go after it relentlessly.

Nevertheless, you cannot discount the Jaguars defense. It good enough to stop the best offenses cold, if they can keep the pressure on Brady to flush him out of the pocket or even get a couple of sacks then it’ll be quite a different ballgame.

On the defensive side of things, the Patriots defense has been working like a well-oiled machine, which is in stark contrast to how it played at the beginning of the season.

Now, they are allowing just 14 points per game over their last 13 games and 12.2 points per game in their six-game home winning streak.

This is to say they will have to work hard to stop Leonard Fournette, who ran for 109 yards and three touchdowns against the Steelers.

And they’ll have to work hard to put and keep the pressure on Blake Bortles to minimize Fournette’s threat via the run.

If the Patriots can slow down the Titans’ running game, Bortles will be forced to beat them via the pass which increases the chances of turnovers and potential scoring situations.

Key Patriots Betting Trends

  • New England is 10-1 ATS in its last 11 games
  • New England is 12-1 SU in its last 13 games
  • The total has gone UNDER in 9 of New England's last 13 games

Game Prediction

If you’ve watched the NFL for more than three weeks, there’s no way you believe the Jaguars will just waltz in and beat the Patriots. More than likely, New England is headed to their eight Super Bowl game.

The Jaguars are probably somewhat caught up in their own hype and excitement to really see what’s up ahead. Most of them are likely dazzled, dazed and confused.

This makes it an interesting game, because one of two things will happen; either the Patriots win like most people think or we get to see the Jaguars walking down the yellow brick road all the way to the Super Bowl.

Expert Pick:  New England -9