The New England Patriots: The first team to ever go undefeated in a 16 game regular season, the bad guys, the cheaters, the heavy favorites.
The Jacksonville Jaguars: Second place team in the toughest division in the league, the lovable team, the popular pick, the underdogs.
The Patriots are defined by their juggernaut offense that consists of the best passing offense in the league. They have the MVP and Offensive Player of the Year in Tom Brady, who is a proven winner and clutch quarterback. Randy Moss; he broke Jerry Rice's single season touchdown receptions record and was a huge deep threat for the Patriots. Wes Welker; the quick and agile possesion receiver who is constantly open. Their defense is led by veteran linebacker, Mike Vrabel. Vrabel has been consistent in getting to the quarterback and has racked up 12.5 sacks. Rodney Harrison was suspended for HGH use and missed the first few games of the season. However, he has come back and been very productive. Tedy Bruschi and Junior Seau are the two veteran inside linebackers who still get it done despite their age. Asante Samuel, the instinctive cornerback who may be gone after this season has been crucial to the Patriot's defensive success.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are defined by their physical, run first, mistake free offense that can eat up the clock and their run stopping defense that is as physical as any team in the league. Fred Taylor has been a beast this season even though he is splitting carries with Maurice Jones-Drew, he is "Fragile Fred" no longer. Maurice Jones-Drew, the small, but powerful running back who can run over the biggest of defenders and slip through any tackle. David Garrard replaced Byron Leftwich this season and he played mistake free football throwing only 3 interceptions all year. Sammy Knight led the Jags in tackles and was second on the team in interceptions this season. Daryl Smith is the young, 25 year old, linebacker who was second on the team in tackles. Mike Peterson is the veteran linebacker who was third on the team in tackles depsite not playing since week 11 and he may not play this week either.
The Patriots and the Jaguars, two completely different teams, both facing off in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. Who will win and who will fall?
Here's how these teams match up position-by-position:
QB - Tom Brady | David Garrard
Of course, the Patriots get the nod here. Tom Brady was the record breaker, MVP winner, and Offensive Player of the Year winner. Garrard threw only three interceptions in the regular season, but he was shaky against Pittsburgh last week. Brady beats him in both skill and experience.
RB - Laurence Maroney | Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew
This is not even close. Taylor and MJD blow Maroney out of the water. Maroney has been inconsistent all season and the Jaguars running back's have been stellar week in and week out. Taylor and Jones-Drew have a chance to have a great game against the Patriots while Maroney will likely be shut down.
WR Corps - Randy Moss, Wes Welker | Reggie Williams, Dennis Northcutt
This, once again, isn't close. Everyone knows about the Patriots amazing receivers and everyone knows that the Jaguars receivers are average. Something else people know is that the Jag's receivers average height is 6'4 and that is much taller than the Pat's secondary, but I don't see that affecting much.
Edge - Patriots
TE - Ben Watson, Kyle Brady | Mercedes Lewis, George Wrighster
Ben Watson is a fast, receiving tight end who is great at getting open in the middle of the field. Kyle Brady is huge and he is a great blocker. Mercedes Lewis and George Wrighster are both mammoth guys that help clear a path for Taylor and MJD.
OL - Light, Mankins, Koppen, Neal, Kaczur | Barnes, Manuwai, Meester, Norman, Pashos
These are both great lines. The Patriot's offensive line is heralded as one of the best in the league and the Jaguar's is one of the most underrated in the league. The Patriots excel in the passing game and give Brady tons of time to step back and pass while the Jaguar's is great in the running game and is a big part of their running success.
DL - Seymour, Wilfork, Warren | Hayward, Henderson, Meier, Spicer
Both teams have good defensive lines. The Jaguars is slightly better, mostly because Richard Seymour hasn't played like his old self. The Jaguars are huge and very, very good at stopping the run. Wilfork is also big and knows how to plug up the middle.
OLB - Adalius Thomas, Mike Vrabel | Daryl Smith, Clint Ingram
Thomas and Vrabel are both veteran leaders who know how to get to the quarterback and do get to him. Smith and Ingram are both good and young tacklers. Vrabel and Thomas are extremely versatile and smart. They are more experienced as well, so I have to give the edge to the Pats.
ILB - Tedy Bruschi, Junior Seau | Mike Peterson
Tedy and Junior are both old, but both know how to get the job done. It will be a tough matchup for them two to go against two of the best backs in the league. Peterson is a very good player, but he has been injured and may not play against the Patriots. If not for Peterson's injury the edge would have gone to the Jags.
CB - Asante Samuel, Ellis Hobbs | Rashean Mathis, Brian Williams
I have read about the Jag's receivers being much taller than the Pat's cornerbacks, but in the words of Joe Dirt, "it don't bother me none." Asante Samuel can read a quarterback very well and they were 6th in the league in pass yards allowed per game even thouhg teams were constantly behind and throwing. The Jaguars, on the other hand, were fifteenth and will have trouble against the Patriot's spread.
SS - Rodney Harrison | Sammy Knight
Harrison missed the first few games, but he has really rebounded and played well. He has come up in times of clutch (look at Raven's game) and he hits hard as usual. Sammy Knight is a very good tackler and he led the Jaguars in tackling this season. These are both good safeties that can roam the field.
FS - Eugene Wilson | Reggie Nelson
Eugene Wilson hasn't played very much this season as he lost time to Sanders, but it says on the Patriots depth chart on NFL.com that Eugene is first. I'm not sure if that's correct, but I'll go with it. Nelson has come in and performed very well for a rookie. He leads the team in picks and was a great tackler just like at Florida.
Patriots: Edge in 6 positions
Jaguars: Edge in 3 positions
Those were based on how good they are skill-wise and how ready they are to play (injuries). It was NOT based on how they will do in the game.
Now it's time for my predicition and analysis.
Score: 35 - 24
The Patriots have a better chance of winning this than people think. The Jaguars have a soft zone that can be exposed by short passing routes and gets torn apart by the spread offense. If Vrabel, Thomas, and Seymour can get pressure on Garrard there could be some picks thrown. The Jaguars have a great run stopping defensive line and great run stopping linebackers, but the Patriots don't run the ball often(duh). Many people bring up the fact that the Jaguars are a cold weather team and the Patriots are a warm weather team and that means the Jaguars will win. Well, it's very nice up here in Massachusetts. I often people say that the defense of the Patriots isn't that good. The Patriot's defense doesn't have to be that good, they just have to be good enough to let their very high scoring offense take and maintain the lead which shouldn't be too hard.