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Prepare for six days of hollow attempts to pump the tires of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Serious football folks will pretend that the Patriots have not already advanced to Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis Feb. 4. You will be reminded that there is still a game to be played.
Sorry. Not buying. I will not read any of the inside football analysis regarding the Jaguars’ vaunted defense (did you know they were second in the NFL in sacks?), Jacksonville’s Man Behind The Curtain (Tom Coughlin beat the Patriots in two Super Bowls when he coached the Giants), or the ground-and-pound style of rookie running back Leonard Fournette.
Save it for “Quick Slants,” “The Real Pregame Show,” “Football Night in America,” or any other clown show that attempts to take this game seriously.
Not me. I know — and you know — that no team quarterbacked by Blake Bleeping Bortles is going to come into Foxborough and beat Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in an AFC Championship game.
The Patriots know it. The Jaguars, God bless ’em, they know it, too. Everybody knows it.
Remember the Titans? Those pushovers you saw at Gillette Stadium Saturday? They beat these Jaguars twice this year (former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich said on WEEI Monday, “The Titans weren’t really a playoff team to begin with”). The Jaguars even lost to the Jets.
This doesn’t diminish the Patriots dynasty. It doesn’t taint another New England trip to the Super Bowl. It’s just a fact. I’ve been teasing Patriots fans about beating Tomato Cans for several years, but nothing compares with what has happened this time around. Seriously, applying any appropriate statistics, variables, and intangibles, the case can be made that this may be the Patriots’ easiest path to the big game ever.
In January of 2018, everyone — especially folks in Vegas — rides the Tomato Can express. Think Roger Goodell or the TV networks want the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Super Bowl? Please.
In November, I wrote that the Patriots’ mission statement is borrowed from Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese general and architect of “The Art of War.’’ The general taught Belichick, “If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.’’
And so they have. Every elite or semi-competent quarterback standing in the Patriots’ path has been erased over the last few weeks. One by one, the bodies of Carson Wentz, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, Alex Smith, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, and Drew Brees have floated down the Cocasset River past the shadow of Gillette Stadium.
There is no quarterback still in the tournament who can beat the Patriots. The NFL’s Final Four quarterbacks are Bortles, Case Keenum, Nick Foles . . . and Tom Brady. That’s like an NCAA men’s basketball Final Four of UMBC, Southern Utah, Ball State . . . and Kentucky.
If the Patriots don’t win this year’s Super Bowl, it will be the greatest local sports disappointment since the Celtics failed to get the No. 1 pick (Tim Duncan) in the 1997 NBA Draft lottery. It will the most colossal wasted opportunity since the 2011 Red Sox succumbed to chicken and beer.
Blake Bleeping Bortles. He seems like a nice fellow. But Bortles has been so bad for so long, he inspired a Twitter account created specifically to mock his struggles (“Blake Bortles has never been benched for Geno Smith”; “Blake Bortles is undefeated in 194 countries”). Check it out. @BortlesFacts has more than 70,000 followers.
In four years in the NFL, Bortles has thrown 64 interceptions and has a completion percentage below 60 percent. He submitted a 1950s stat line (12 for 23, 87 yards) in Jacksonville’s 10-3, rock-fight victory over the Bills on wild-card weekend. Those are the same Bills the Patriots outscored, 60-19, in two easy wins.
Oh, and Jacksonville’s “great” defense? Roethlisberger torched the Jaguars for 469 yards and five touchdowns Sunday. What do you think Brady will do to them in Foxborough?
While we’re piling on, it needs to be mentioned that Fournette — Jacksonville’s best player — injured his ankle in Sunday’s win. As if on cue. Part of the Patriot fan experience is watching the other team’s best guy get hurt the week before they play the Patriots.
The Jaguars should be able to do better than the Titans. But their coach and their quarterback will be overwhelmed by the aura and mystique of Belichick and Brady. Doug Marrone will lose his football mind Sunday, and Bortles will be Bortles.
In this Brady/Belichick era, the Patriots are 14-0 in playoff games against teams they did not face during the season. The Patriots did not face the Eagles, Vikings, or Jaguars this year. Belichick and Brady (and Ernie Adams) will not be denied.
If the 71-year-old Coughlin wants to win this game, he should rip the headset off Marrone’s head and go back to the sideline.
Enjoy AFC Championship week, everyone. But pay no attention to the notion of the Jaguars actually winning.
See you at the Mall of America.
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