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Scouting the Matchups: Jags don't have the horses to deal with Gronkowski and Brady

Patriots Football Weekly's Paul Perillo shares his matchup predictions heading into Week 3.


The Patriots backfield returned to full strength before last Sunday's game against Buffalo, when the team welcomed back LeGarrette Blount from a one-game suspension. Running backs weren't a big part of the game plan, however, as New England threw the ball 59 times and rushed for 56 yards on 15 carries. Dion Lewis did most of the work with 40 yards on seven rushing attempts. One thing Jacksonville has done well this season is defend the run. Miami was held to 42 yards rushing on 16 carries in last week's 23-20 Jaguars win. The Patriots are still breaking in three rookies on the offensive line: center David Andrews and guards Shaq Mason and Tre' Jackson. That group has performed well but the Jags front has contained the run thus far while the Patriots haven't really tried to establish the ground game. Advantage: JAGUARS



Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley has repeatedly said his team will be committed to the running game this season, and the Jaguars are relying on rookie T.J. Yeldon to carry the load. After gaining 51 yards on 12 carries in a Week 1 loss to Carolina, Yeldon gained 70 yards on 25 carries in last Sunday's 23-20 victory over Miami. No other player carried the ball more than three times in that game. The Patriots run defense improved after Buffalo opened last Sunday's game with a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive (58 of those yards came on the ground). Buffalo finished the game with 160 yards on 27 carries, but much of that yardage came when it seemed New England had the game in hand. The Jags want to keep it on the ground and the Patriots will be more focused on preventing that from happening. Advantage: PATRIOTS



Unless his arm is still tired from the 59 passes he threw in last Sunday's victory over Buffalo, Tom Brady should have his way with a defense that has allowed 251 yards passing per game through its first two contests. Brady tossed four TDs in New England's 28-21 victory over Pittsburgh, and three during the victory over Buffalo. He has not been intercepted. New England tight end Rob Gronkowski has four TD catches in two games this season, and has caught at least one TD in each of his last eight games. Jacksonville recorded 45 sacks last season, but the Patriots offensive line turned in a strong performance against a Bills defensive front that many consider the best in the NFL. Jacksonville, like most opponents, simply doesn't have the horses to deal with Gronkowski and Brady.  Advantage: PATRIOTS



Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles passed for a meager 183 yards and was intercepted twice during a season-opening 20-9 loss to Carolina - Josh Norman returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown -- but he performed much better against Miami last Sunday. Bortles completed 18 of 33 passes for 273 yards against the Dolphins, and he was not intercepted in Jacksonville's 23-20 victory. Bortles seemed to find a target he likes against Miami as well. Allen Robinson caught six passes for 155 yards and two TDs in that game. Tight end Julius Thomas missed team's first two games with a broken hand and in his absence the Jags have gotten little production from the position. Allen Hurns is nice complementary piece, but the front seven should continue to help the secondary with some strong pressure. Advantage: PATRIOTS



Although Jacksonville's Bryan Anger (a third-round pick in 2012) has become one of the most consistent punters in the league, the Patriots appear to have a significant edge in this area. Jacksonville's Jason Myers made three field goals last Sunday, but missed a PAT and was wide right on a 44-yard field goal attempt in Week 1. The Jaguars also surrendered a 37-yard punt return against Carolina and a 32-yard punt return against Miami. New England has dangerous returners in Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, and one of the NFL's most consistent placekickers in Stephen Gostkowski. Jacksonville wide receiver Rashad Greene had a 24-yard punt return against the Dolphins and needs to be contained.  Advantage: PATRIOTS



The Patriots have won 36 of their last 37 home games against AFC opponents. The only loss during that span came against Buffalo in the final regular-season game last season, after the Patriots had already secured first place in the AFC East. Prior to that loss, New England had won 35 straight home games against conference opponents. Jacksonville is coming off a 23-20 home victory over Miami, but will likely have a hard time building on that momentum. Not only will the Jaguars be playing on the road, they're also overmatched from a talent standpoint. Also working in New England's favor is the fact that Bortles will be facing a Bill Belichick-coached team for the first time. That's usually a recipe for disaster. Advantage: PATRIOTS

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