New England at Jacksonville
Where: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville
JACKSONVILLE – The Jacksonville Jaguars were one step from advancing to the Super Bowl last season, only to be denied by an old nemesis with a narrow loss in the AFC Championship Game. The Jaguars will get a chance to avenge that defeat — albeit with the stakes considerably lower — when they host the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon in their home opener.
Reigning NFL MVP Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes in the final nine minutes to rally New England past Jacksonville in January, so he knows what he’s up against in a defense that led the AFC in yards and points allowed last season. “They were a great team last year and gave us everything we could handle in the championship game, and they’re at it again this year,” Brady said. “They’ve got an incredible rush, great linebackers, great secondary. It’s going to be very challenging, tough environment and we’ll see what we’re made of.” The Jaguars turned in a strong defensive performance in a 20-15 season-opening victory at the New York Giants and may be more reliant on that unit with star running back Leonard Fournette a major question mark due to a hamstring injury. “We feel we’re so talented on defense,” said linebacker Myles Jack, who returned an interception for a score in the season opener. “We’ve got DBs that can score, linebackers can score. Even D-linemen who can strip sack fumbles and score. We don’t put any pressure on the offense. If the offense scores, it puts even more onus on us. We try to create points.”
TV: 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Pick. O/U: 45.5
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (1-0): Brady threw for three first-half touchdowns and wound up with 277 yards in a 27-20 win over Houston, relying heavily on tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had seven catches for 123 yards and a score. With Julian Edelman sitting out the first four games while serving a suspension, Phillip Dorsett provided a boost to the passing game with seven receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown. New England has major issues in the backfield: Rex Burkhead (concussion), who rushed for 64 yards in Week 1, and first-round draft pick Sony Michel were both limited in practice Thursday and Jeremy Hill suffered a torn ACL in the season opener. The Patriots’ defense had three sacks, forced a fumble and notched an interception against Houston.
ABOUT THE JAGUARS (1-0): Fournette was hurt in the second quarter last week, but he was unable to practice Wednesday or Thursday and labeled himself a “game-time decision.” Backup T.J. Yeldon was solid after replacing Fournette, rushing for 51 yards on 14 carries and adding three catches for 18 yards and a touchdown. Blake Bortles, who lost top wideout Marqise Lee to a knee injury in the preseason, threw for only 176 yards on 18-of-33 passing against New York and completed at least three passes to five different players, led by Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook with 54 and 51 yards, respectively. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey may get matched up against Gronkowski after saying last month that the tight end is “not as great as people think he is.”
1. Brady is 8-0 (playoffs included) against Jacksonville, which has never beaten New England.
2. Jaguars DE Dante Fowler will return to the lineup after serving a one-game suspension.
3. The Patriots signed WRs Corey Coleman, a former first-round pick, and Bennie Fowler this week.