ORLANDO, Fla. – By any measure, the numbers are staggering. This coming Sunday's AFC championship game will mark the seventh straight conference title tilt for the New England Patriots, who will host the Jaguars at 3:05 p.m.
With Bill Belichick at the helm and Tom Brady under center, the dynasty in Foxboro shows no signs of ending anytime soon, despite recent reports suggesting discord among the head coach, quarterback, and owner Robert Kraft. Following a 13-3 regular season, the Patriots once again enjoyed the comforts of a bye week as the AFC's top seed. Thanks to Tennessee's impressive come-from-behind victory at Kansas City in a thrilling Wild Card showdown, it was the Titans earning a trip to New England for the divisional round. An early 7-0 lead for the visitors quickly vanished as the Pats scored 35 unanswered points and coasted to an easy win this past weekend. Now, the AFC South champs from Jacksonville will look to follow up their win at Pittsburgh with a second consecutive upset of an NFL blue blood.
It certainly won't be easy. Jacksonville featured the league's second-ranked defense during the regular season, while the Patriots finished first in total offense. While that may be a toss-up, New England's defense is among the stingiest at allowing touchdowns. That statistic, coupled with the Patriots' playoff pedigree, makes it difficult to imagine the Jags springing the upset by kicking field goals.
The Jaguars' 0-3 all-time playoff record in Foxboro carries no weight. Those were different teams with different strengths. But the Patriots' aura of success at Gillette Stadium cannot be ignored. Under Belichick and Brady, the Pats are 18-3 in home playoff games. But, if Jacksonville's stout defense flexes its muscle and the offense continues to take care of the ball, the Jags might finally punch their ticket to a Super Bowl.