New England is a legitimate Super Bowl contender, while the only thing that Jacksonville is contending for is the top overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
The two teams have faced off a total of five times since 2001, and New England has walked away with a victory each time, including a 35-7 thumping the last time they met back in 2009.
But the game isn’t played on paper, and as we have come to learn, anything can happen once the game is underway.
Let’s take a look at what each team must do in order to pull out the victory on Sunday afternoon.
Keys For Patriots
Stay Focused on Defense
Jacksonville is pretty inept in all areas of the game and is playing without its best player, RB Maurice Jones-Drew, so it would be easy for the Patriots defense to underestimate and look past the Jaguars offense.
While the Patriots defense is much improved from a year ago, it’s far from elite. New England allows the sixth-most yards to opponents (377.1 per game) and is in the middle of the pack in scoring defense, allowing 22.1 points per game—15 in the NFL.
A lackadaisical effort by New England’s defense will lead to bad things.
Win The Battle in the Trenches
This applies to both sides of the ball for New England.
Offensively, Jacksonville has the worst run defense in the NFL and will assuredly be putting eight in the box to try and stuff the run. New England’s offensive line must hold its blocks and give Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead room to run.
Defensively, Vince Wilfork and company must dominate the Jaguars offensive line, shedding blocks to get into the Jaguars backfield.
Stuffing RB Montell Owens behind the line of scrimmage and getting pressure on QB Chad Henne, forcing him to make poor decisions with the football, are the keys to shutting the Jacksonville offense down.
Keys For Jaguars
Attack The Patriots Secondary Early
New England’s pass defense is the fourth-worst in the NFL, surrendering more than 270 passing yards and nearly two passing touchdowns per game.
Justin Blackmon has shown flashes of brilliance in 2012. Chad Henne must look to attack the Patriots secondary early, completing passes not only to Blackmon, but to all of his receivers, forcing the Pats to drop back into coverage.
Establish the Run Game
If Henne is able to find success early against the Patriots secondary, Montell Owens should find more room to run.
He’ll have to bounce it outside, as there’s virtually no chance that the Jaguars can contain Vince Wilfork in the middle of the line for the entire game. However, a steady diet of Owens will eat clock and keep Tom Brady on the sidelines—the best defense against a formidable offense.