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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Jacksonville Jaguars are a tough test for Patriots

New England will have to fight for Super Bowl spot

Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles is under pressure
1 of 1

AFC Championship
Sky Sports Action, 8.05pm Sunday

The New England Patriots will not have had many complaints about how their defence of the Vince Lombardi Trophy has gone until this week.

Bill Belichick's team were shocked by Kansas City on opening night but then proceeded on their customary cakewalk towards the AFC East divisional title and a Week 15 victory over Pittsburgh ensured they would be playing all of their playoff matches at Gillette Stadium.

Nine of their 14 victories this season have been by a margin of 16 points or more, including last week's 35-14 success over Tennessee, so they have been a pal of punters as well.

So surely a sixth Super Bowl success for Belichick as a head coach beckons, which would be their third success in four years?

Not so fast.

This is the point where life could potentially get tougher and not just because mystery surrounds the participation of quarterback Tom Brady, who has suffered a thumb injury.

Brady would not be drawn on whether he would be fit to face Jacksonville in the AFC Championship game, but even if he does make it, there is potential for the Jaguars to give him and his team a difficult time.

Jacksonville should be fearless after they went toe-to-toe with what many would regard as the best offence in the league in last week's 45-42 win against Pittsburgh, which was probably a more comprehensive victory than the final score suggests.

The Florida outfit conceded the second-fewest number of points in the regular season, but while quarterback Blake Bortles is a player who may never convince some people, they were the fifth-highest scorers.

Expect them to try to grind it out and utilise running back Leonard Fournette extensively.

The rookie scored three touchdowns in last week's win over the Steelers and no team rushed more than the Jaguars during the regular season.

New England's defence has improved as the season has progressed. They conceded more than 400 yards in each of their first six matches and have done so one once since.

The Patriots can never be ruled out but it just seems that the value may lie with the visiting underdogs and if Brady is declared fit, there is even a chance that more than 7.5 points will be available at game time.

Jacksonville +7.5
2pts 20-23 Coral, Ladbrokes

The lowdown
Venue Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
Surface Artificial
Weather Cloudy 4C
Vegas handicap Jacksonville +7
Vegas points line 45

Team news
Safety Tashaun Gipson has missed two practice sessions with a foot injury he suffered in last week's victory over Pittsburgh

New England
Quarterback Tom Brady is rated as questionable with a thumb injury. Offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, defensive lineman Alan Branch and running backs Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee are afforded a similar status

Key stat
The points total has gone under the line in four of Jacksonville's last six games against New England.

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Jacksonville should be fearless after they went toe-to-toe with what many would regard as the best offence in the league last week
E.W. Terms
Sky bet