It’s a new season for the New England Patriots, and while they were undefeated in the regular season, they know that if they don’t get the job done by winning the Super Bowl, the season will go down as a waste. This week it’s test number one, as they take on the rough and tough Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night. While they have the advantage overall, the Pats know they cannot afford to look ahead. Here are 5 keys for the Pats to gain a win and move on to the AFC Title game next weekend.
1. Attack the Jags Secondary – Watching tape this past week of Ben Roethlisberger shredding the Jags secondary in the fourth quarter should have made Tom Brady drool this past week. If the Jags have a soft spot, it’s the secondary, and if Brady plays anywhere near as well as he did during the season, he should have a big night throwing to Moss, Welker and others. The big thing for him will be to do what Roethlisberger didn’t – avoid mistakes.
2. Crowd the Box Early and Make the Jags Throw – Using Rodney Harrison as another defender in the box should help, as you know the Jags are thinking run, and run a lot. They can run inside and out, and they will test the front four of the Pats until they find a way to stuff them. If you are going to put another defender in the box, it may put pressure on the corners, but that is the best way to defend the two headed monster of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew.
3. Watch the Screens and Dump-Offs – This is a part of the game that the Jags love to use. QB David Garrard takes a three or five-step drop, and if he can’t find one of his wide outs, he loves to just flare it out to Taylor or Jones-Drew. The Pats linebackers, who have been getting dissed all week, are going to have to make some plays in this department, and make sure they make sure tackles and gang tackle as well.
4. Run Laurence Maroney Inside the Tackles and Out of the Spread – Jacksonville may be a bit thin inside that D-line with DT John Henderson and MLB Mike Peterson hurting, and Marcus Stroud gone. If Maroney can get some early yards, that is going to open up the passing game right off the bat as the Pats will then go to their spread. Mixing it up early is going to be a sure-fire way for the Pats to get that high powered offense and to keep the Jags on their toes.
5. Relax and Remember Who You Are – The Pats are 16-0 for a reason. They are a veteran team and have more talent top to bottom against this Jags team. If they come out, play their game, and not get caught up in all the talk of being upset, they should be fine. Let’s remember that the media has jumped on everyone that seems to have a shot against the Pats, and then New England comes out and does what it does best – take care of business. Use your stars – Brady, Moss, Welker and a underrated defense to move on to the title game next weekend.