Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots

Supposedly the Jaguars are the weakest team in the playoffs. Oddsmakers have them winning the Super Bowl at 30-1. The next closest team is 15-1. Pundits are already penciling New England at Indianapolis as the game to watch next week. Personally, I'm a little bemused. This has to be the least respect I've ever seen given to a team that finished 12-4 while winning 8 of their last 9 games (the one loss was to Indy). While the schedule was fairly weak (an understatement), so was Cincinnati's, and you don't see them getting the same treatment. At the end of the day, the Jags won the games. They earned a trip to the postseason, and they will be a difficult test. Unfortunately for Jacksonville, if there's a team that will still take them seriously, it is the New England Patriots, who are one of the more professional teams I've seen. They are also finally getting healthy, which is bad news for all comers. Can Jacksonville be the team to dethrone the dynasty?

Jacksonville "O" vs New England "D"
Best Matchup: Byron Leftwich (QB) vs. Tedy Bruschi (MLB) - Byron Leftwich is finally back to start this playoff game, which should be good news for Jag fans, as David Garrard didn't overly impress in his brief stint. Still, Leftwich will be rusty, and that's trouble against a defense led by the likes of Bruschi. Tedy and friends pride themselves on getting into opposing quarterback's heads in the playoffs. They have done it as well as anyone, and it is one of the main reasons for their success. If Bruschi is able to shut down the short passing game that Leftwich likes, the issues New England has in their secondary will be minimal. If Leftwich is given time, he does have downfield threats in Matt Jones and Jimmy Smith. Matt Jones especially needs to step up and have a big performace. I haven't mentioned Fred Taylor yet... that's because I have no idea what to expect from him. Honorable mention: Matt Jones (WR) vs. Asante Samuel (CB)

Colin: Now, Tedy is a might banged up as well, so we will have to see how that factors into this whole mess, because if Leftwich is gunning against Chad Brown, all bets are off. Leftwich can throw the deep ball, so I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them attempt to bypass the linebacking corps, and if Leftwich has proven anything to me, it is that he is one of the toughest quarterbacks I have ever seen. If anyone can get hit by the Pats defense 15 times and keep on winging balls with authority downfield, it will be Leftwich.

Battle of the Trenches: This is where New England has really gotten dangerous with the return of Richard Seymour. Pair him with Vince Wilfork on the inside and you have quite the tandem (although Jacksonville's might actually be better... but more on that later). Jacksonville's offensive line does an above average job of run blocking, but if Fred Taylor lacks a burst he may find holes and gaps closing too quickly. Pass protection will be crucial, and the Jags again have done a decent job with it this year. New England, however, should be able to get pressure with their front four (Seymour and McGinest), and then back it up with blitzes from Bruschi and Samuel. I do feel that the Patriots have an advantage.

Colin: No doubt Leftwich will be sitting on his bum several times in this game. Richard Seymour is a beast from the outside, and McGinest isn't a slouch either. What the offensive line has to do is limit their mistakes, specifically false starts and holding. The Pats are very good at making the other team beat themselves. The Jags MUST not let that happen, but it will be immensely difficult playing in a hostile, cold environment.

Biggest Surprise: Tedy Bruschi's return. It is no surprise that his return coincided with the Patriots starting to play better. The defense, especially the rushing defense, has been all-world the last half of the year. Having your defensive quarterback in the game makes all the difference in the world.

New England "O" vs. Jacksonville "D"
Best Matchup: Corey Dillon vs John Henderson/Marcus Stroud
Let's face it, the Patriots haven't been able to do much on the ground all year, starting men like Heath Evans. At the tail end, however, Dillon started to get more healthy and had some good performances (much to the chagrin of our father, whose fantasy team had disintegrated in large part to his earlier efforts). Dillon will have a huge challenge here against the best defensive tackle tandem in the league. Henderson and Stroud are big and fast, and love to stuff the running game. Brady is best in the play-action, but if the Jaguars take Dillon out of the game they can focus on stopping the short in routes the Patriots love. Still, the Patriots have this Tom Brady guy. He put up huge numbers with no running game this year. Jacksonville's secondary is strong, led by S Donovan Darius, and have held Peyton Manning down several times. They need to key on Deion Branch and to not let him get going. Honorable Mention: Tom Brady (QB) vs Rashean Mathis (CB)

Colin: Surprisingly, the Jags struggled against the run several times this year, including against the Colts late in the season. However, if they can make the Pats one-dimensional, that would help their cause tremendously. Brady is capable of taking a team on his shoulders and winning with no running game, but he is almost unstoppable with a great running game (see last year). This will be a big task for the Jags, but perhaps doable.

Battle of the Trenches: Like I wrote above, this will be a struggle for the Patriots when you have to deal with Henderson/Stroud. Players like rookie Logan Mankins have played well and overall the NE line is solid, but this is one of the best d-lines they will have faced all year. I remember how much trouble they had against Indy. I am most interested to see how DE Reggie Hayward fares, as the Patriots will more than likely try to use the outside to run or pass. The Jags need Hayward to get pressure on the quarterback.

Most Enigmatic Player: I'm going to go with Byron Leftwich, because no one truly knows what he's going to be able to give. I remember when Donovan McNabb came back a couple of years ago and was so rusty the Eagles lost the NFC Championship game. Leftwich cannot afford to be rusty. If he fails on the playoff stage, the questions about his continued effectiveness will continue.

Player to Watch For: Matt Jones (WR). I mentioned him before, but believe he is the x-factor for Jacksonville's offense. He has the best play-making ability of anyone including Jimmy Smith. The Jags need him desperately to create mismatches downfield and especially in the red zone. They cannot settle for field goals. Not on the road in the postseason.

Colin: How about Ernest Wilford? Here's the true #2 wide-out on the Jags sidelines, and the Jags offense started scoring more points when he started becoming a larger part. He's tall, strong, and gets open in the end-zone, which is more than you can say for ex-Husky Reggie Williams. If Wilford has a big game, that frees up Smith, and suddenly the Jags are in serious business.

The Crushed Line: I have spent this entire post trying to give Jacksonville more credit than has been given them nationally. Now I take it away. I will pick against New England after they lose. Not until they do. New England by seven.

Colin: Sorry, Jacksonville. I pick you to win. IN YOUR FACE TOM BRADY!!!

posted by Gavin @ 11:11 AM  3 comments


At 4:06 PM, Blogger Tash said...

Great preview! One thing I saw that was sort of off however was the Chad Brown mismatch thing. Chad hardy ever plays anymore. At the most he's in on four or five plays.

Fred Taylor is not going to find room against the Pat's front seven. Last week Ricky Williams’s yards were stacked up against third and second stringers. Our every day run Def. is very solid.

I think the Pats will pull this one out 36 to 13.

At 8:21 PM, Blogger Gavin said...

Chad Brown might see significant playing time if Bruschi (as has been rumored) misses the game. If not you are correct, he won't see anything. Fred Taylor will find running room difficult, putting more pressure on the ailing Leftwich.
Your prediction is pretty intense. You really think the Jags are three touchdowns worse than the Patriots?

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Tash said...

We shall see...


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