EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 11, 2008

Blowout City

Bill Burt

FOXBORO | The 2007 Jacksonville Jaguars have a lot in common with the 2001 fly-under-the-radar-and-shock-the-world New England Patriots.

They can run the football. They are tough. They are confident. They have nothing to lose.

There is at least one major difference, among several. There were no 2007 New England Patriots around.

In the playoffs, those Patriots beat Oakland, Pittsburgh and then powerful St. Louis, the team which is closest to the current crop of Patriots.

There are other important differences which put the kibosh on this the Jaguars-are-the-old-Patriots theory. Here are a few: The 2001 Patriots had the three B's: a bye, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

Enough with the obvious, though, and let's get right to the point: The Patriots are going to destroy the Jacksonville Jaguars.

That's right. DESTROY.

This has more to do with the Patriots than it does the Jaguars, but both will be equally culpable.

Here are 10 reasons why:

1. Patriots are rested

When you are good or even great for that matter, with veterans littered throughout the lineup, there is nothing like a week off. Nothing.

The bye is a beautiful thing for teams that know how to win like the Patriots do.

2. You must pass to beat the Pats

This is the myth that everyone, particularly the NFL pundits, is missing. Every Patriots "almost" loss had something in common. The opposition ran the ball and threw the ball very well.

You cannot beat the Patriots by running the football alone. You must also throw the ball. A.J. Feeley, Kyle Boller and Eli Manning, not really household names in the passing department, all had career games against the Patriots. This also means there is a risk involved and each of those quarterbacks made key mistakes, which in the end, cost their teams.

David Garrard would have to have a career day, with at least two or three touchdown passes and no interceptions. The odds of that happening are slim and none.

The bottom line is just running the ball isn't enough. The Patriots will eventually slow the running game down.

3. Jags defense is OK, not great

The four teams that gave the Patriots problems | Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Baltimore and the N.Y. Giants | each had defenses that finished in the top 10 in yards allowed in the NFL.

The Jags are 12th. That is not going to cut it against this Patriots offense, which is foaming at the mouth awaiting these playoffs.

To beat the Patriots, you must keep the score in the 20s. Heck, the Jaguars allowed 19 points per game against everybody. That's not good enough.

This might be the Jaguars' killer, because the thought is the Patriots are going for the jugular early and often. They want a 14-0 lead. They want Garrard throwing the ball early and often. Can the Jags defense stop that from happening?

4. Pressure is the same for Jacksonville

This is a new one for the Patriots. For nearly two months it was the Patriots against the world. A loss and they would have had to hide their collective heads in the sand. Undefeated or bust.

That pressure took a lot out of the Patriots and it showed the last six weeks of the season.

That is gone now. The other team, this time Jacksonville, has something to lose, too. My guess is there will be a lot less risk-taking early in the game, which will play into the Patriots' all-out first quarter press.

5. The Patriots are playing for history

Don't downplay this reason. The Patriots have too much on the line to take this game lightly.

I realize this is a tired, old reason, but it's true. Since Week 3, people started talking about history. And the Patriots have delivered.

Sometimes it was too close for comfort | Philadelphia and Baltimore | but the Patriots came through.

The fact the core of this team, including its head coach, has won three Super Bowls shows they can handle this history talk. They've handled it from opening day.

6. The Patriots are much better

The Jaguars earned a lot of their accolades in December and now January. They are the kind of football team that is easy to like. They are tough. Every yard given or taken comes with some blood and sweat.

But there is only one team on a par with the Patriots and that's next week's opponent, the Colts. They match up a lot better with the Patriots.

The Jaguars are a good team. They really are. They just don't have enough talent to match up in a game of this magnitude against the Patriots.

Here's what they need to happen: Two Tom Brady interceptions, two Laurence Maroney fumbles, and a punt return for a touchdown.

Could it happen? Of course it could. But the odds are minimal. And the Jags don't have the team to force that many errors.

The Jags play close-to-the-vest football. They like to control the clock. That isn't enough against the Patriots. You need to attack the Patriots at certain points and this team doesn't appear to have the talent on offense to do it.

7. Randy Moss

He has never won a Super Bowl. In fact, he has never been to the big game. There is a lot riding on his shoulders and, quite frankly, it couldn't be sitting on a better place.

Other than the last game against the Giants, Moss and Brady were out of synch late in the year, almost playing for the records a tad too much.

The playoffs will be different. Moss and the Patriots will focus more on quality than quantity of catches.

While Moss had a Hall of Fame season (a record 23 TD receptions), his career in New England will be judged from these games in January and February.

Expect the Patriots to wait for the right play to Moss. It might not be until the end of the first half, but if the offense moves the ball as expected, it will come eventually.

The Jaguars have nothing on a par with Moss, not even close.

8. Pride Day for Patriots defense

The Patriots can't stop the run, or so they say. Everyone looks for a chink in the Patriots' incredible armor and the run defense is supposedly it.

Do you think they are going to take kindly to allowing the Jaguars, the No. 5 seed, to run the ball up and down the field like a lot of pundits expect?

I'm not saying the Patriots will shut down the Jaguars' running attack, but I believe it will be slowed to a crawl.

Belichick's defenses have been a staple of his championship teams here in New England and they are definitely second fiddle to Brady & Co. But according to a few defensive players, they are not happy about being dissed so easily.

9. Playoff blowouts are allowed

The regular season is one thing; the playoffs are another.

Beating the living heck out of an opponent, especially on this weekend, is not only allowed but expected.

The Patriots had to live for much of October and some of November as being a cold, angry team that enjoyed running up the score.

Well, it's cold in January and great teams are supposed to rid the league of the also-rans.

The Patriots have no pressure to lay off the gas pedal, unless they touch 50 points, which probably won't happen.

10. Because …

I have a feeling the Patriots, particularly on offense, have been dormant for too long.

Subconsciously, they have been waiting for this time of year probably since mid-November, and it showed.

To be honest, I understand why the sentiment is toward the Jaguars. The Patriots are not only hunted, but they are hated.

And a lot of the country has hung onto a few glimmers of hope (Jags' running game, Pats' run defense) while ignoring the obvious.

The Patriots might be the best team ever. The Jaguars aren't even in their league, at least not this year.

David Garrard would have to have a career day and so would the Jags defense.

Not this year. Not tomorrow night.

Patriots win, 41-10.

You can e-mail Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.