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Scouting the Matchup: Too much offense for Jags

The Patriots top-ranked offense will lead the Patriots past Jacksonville


The New England running game has looked much better since Dion Lewis became the primary ball carrier, and Lewis had some of his most productive games late in the season. He rushed for a season-high 129 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries against Buffalo in Week 16, and gained 93 yards and a touchdown on 26 attempts when the Patriots concluded the regular season with a victory over the Jets. He was a dual-threat when New England opened the playoffs by beating Tennessee. He had nine receptions for 79 yards in that contest and ran for 62-yards on 15 carries. The Patriots have run for more than 100 yards in each of their last three games and have 441 yards rushing during that span. Jacksonville finished the regular season ranked 21st in rushing yards allowed per game and 26th in rushing yards allowed per play. Advantage: Patriots


Jacksonville's top-ranked running game is all about rookie Leonard Fournette, who makes the Jaguars' offense go. Fournette is a physical back who surpassed 100 yards rushing in five regular-season games and ran for 109 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries in Sunday's divisional-round victory over Pittsburgh. Fournette ranked seventh in the NFL in rushing attempts (268) during the regular season, when he ran for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns. He's had trouble with ankle injuries this season - he left Sunday's game against Pittsburgh with one but returned in the third quarter - but has a capable backup in T.J. Yeldon.  Despite being No. 20 in rushing yards allowed this season and 31st in rushing yards per carry, the Patriots have limited their last three opponents to a total of 189 yards on the ground. Advantage: Jaguars


New England quarterback Tom Brady stumbled a bit late in the regular season, but there was nothing wrong with his performance against Tennessee in Saturday night's 35-14 divisional-round victory. Brady completed 35 of 53 passes for 337 yards and three touchdowns. He was not intercepted. Assuming his hand injury is minor, he should be able to approach that performance again. Another good sign in that game was the 11-catch performance turned in by wide receiver Danny Amendola. Running back Dion Lewis added nine receptions for 79 yards, and tight end Rob Gronkowski had six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. The Patriots will be up against a nasty Jacksonville defense that finished second in the NFL in points allowed (268), sacks (55) and interceptions (21). Jacksonville cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey were both selected to the Pro Bowl. Advantage: Jaguars


The current version of Blake Bortles is probably not what Jacksonville had hoped for when the Jaguars selected him third overall in the 2014 draft. He completed 60.2 percent of his passes during the regular season, when he had 21 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions, and he's only efficient when the Jacksonville running game is clicking and he can take advantage of play-action passes. Somehow, Jacksonville managed to get past Buffalo in the Wild Card round, even though he was held to 12-of-24 passing for 87 yards in that game. Tight end Marcedes Lewis leads Jacksonville with five TD catches. The Patriots allowed more than 300 yards passing in five of their first six games, but no team has thrown for 300 yards against them since.  The Patriots set a franchise record for postseason sacks with eight last week against Tennessee. Advantage: Patriots


The Patriots have been exceptional on special teams for much of the season, but three of the four penalties they received in Saturday night's victory over Tennessee came in the kicking game. Brandon King received a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness during a Tennessee kickoff return, and Lawrence Guy and Nicholas Grigsby each received holding penalties during punt returns. No team can afford that kind of undisciplined play in the postseason. Jacksonville also had issues in the kicking game during its playoff victory over Pittsburgh last weekend. Brad Nortman had a punt blocked that gave Pittsburgh the ball in Jacksonville territory. The Jaguars finished the regular season ranked eighth in punt-return average, but New England ranked fourth in punt-return coverage and third in kickoff-return coverage. Advantage: Patriots


If experience counts for anything, then the Patriots would seem to have a huge advantage in this contest. New England is playing in the AFC Championship Game for the seventh consecutive season. No other NFL team has had seven winning seasons during that stretch. The Jaguars, on the other hand, are in the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 season. This will be Jacksonville's third appearance in the AFC Championship Game, and the first time it's been this far since the 1999 season. ... Jacksonville is plus-10 in takeaways this season and led the league with seven defensive touchdowns.  ... Both teams have been excellent in the red zone. The Jaguars are No. 2 in both red-zone offense and red-zone defense. The Patriots are fifth in red-zone offense and fourth in red-zone defense. Advantage: Patriots

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