New England Patriots vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
The New England Patriots and the Jacksonville Jaguars both kick off their 2011 NFL Preseason’s as they meet on Thursday night in Foxborough. The Patriots are -4 favorites over the Jaguars with an over/under point total of 36.5.
The New England Patriots seem to quietly go about their business and then make noise in quick hits picking up big name veterans in the offseason and though the off season was abbreviated, they still managed to be heard from. Tom Brady is expected to be a man on a mission this season as while he still has a lot left, time isn’t on his side and he would want nothing more and he expects nothing less than another Super Bowl ring. While we’ll see Brady here I am excited to see Ryan Mallett the rookie from Arkansas who many teams passed on and while he is third on the depth chart behind Bobby Hoyer right now, Bill Bellichick isn’t known for drafting players that aren’t in the future plans. BenJarvus Grenn-Ellis did a fine job at running back last year and Kevin Faulk will be back as the longest tenured Pat but there should be some battle among Danny Woodhead who is tough not to root for, Shane Vereen out of Cal who has all the tools to be a feature back, and Stevan Ridley from LSU, the same big time program that produced Faulk. Where it really gets interesting for New England is at receiver where Wes Welker returns but they acquired Chad Ochocinco from Cincinnati, have last year’s late season star and former Patriot hero Deion Branch along with the Skilled Brandon Tate and Welker clone Julian Edelman. Aaron hernandez and Rob Gronkowski make up one of the better Tight End tandems in football. Defensively New England didn’t stop the run in the playoffs and while their pass defense was outstanding all season not being able to stop the run will cripple a team against the better teams. The pats offense put up 518 points last season while the defense allowed 313.
With three games to go last season the Jacksonville Jaguars were 8-5 and had a legitimate shot of going to the playoffs; three games later they were 8-8 and watching the playoffs from home. It’s win now or never for Jack Del Rio and he and the Jaguar organization would prefer the former. David Garrard returns at QB but he is injured with a back issue and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out as the Jags drafted highly touted Blaine Gabbert from Missouri as the heir apparent and how soon that transition takes place remains to be seen but at the very least we should get a look at Gabbert here as well as Luke McCown who all seem to be set on making the final roster. At Running back Maurice Jones-Drew is still one of the best in the NFL and we’ll see plenty of Rashard Jennings and Greg Jones but we’ll also see Deji Kim who can factor in the return game as well as the backfield. Wide Receiver has been an issue for Jacksonville for many years, really since Jimmy Smith left, and that was a long time ago. Mike Thomas has on side nailed down and Del Rio is leaning towards Jason Hill on the other side though he has just 11 catches and the team spent a high draft choice on Tiquan Underwood who they can only hope emerges though Kasim Osgood and John Mattews are both going to get a good look. Tight End is strong with Marcedes Lewis and Zach Miller (not the Pro Bowler who was in Oakland and now in Seattle) in the fold. In the end it was the Jags defense that let them down last year as they allowed 419 points, one of the worst in the NFL.
Both of these teams went 2-2 last preseason with the Patriots losing their last two and the Jaguars winning their last two. While I can see the Patriots moving on the Jaguars I am not so sure I see the same going the other way, especially since they won’t have Garrard in there at all. We’ll be seeing the rookies for both team which could mean a lot of turnovers.
I see New England winning this one but probably by a field goal which with the spread being four, I’ll take the points.
Jacksonville Jaguars +4 New England Patriots