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Patriots vs. Jaguars preview: New England faces a golden opportunity to get back on track in Week 17

Related: NFL playoff picture: Patriots drop to sixth seed in the AFC after Week 16 loss against Bills

Jacksonville Jaguars Training Camp Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Coming off back-to-back losses and with only two games remaining in the regular season, the New England Patriots need to get back on track quickly. Luckily, their Week 17 opponent presents the perfect opportunity to do that: the 2-13 Jacksonville Jaguars will visit Gillette Stadium.

The Jaguars are one of the worst in the NFL and on their way to “earning” the number one overall pick in the draft for a second straight year. If there ever is an opponent for the Patriots to find their groove again and build some momentum, it is this one.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the Jaguars, though. Welcome to Week 17.


Points scored: 14.5/game (32nd)

Yards gained: 308/game (26nd)

Passing offense: 321-for-545, 3,046 yards, 9 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, -0.067 EPA (29th), -8.8% DVOA (28th)

Rushing offense: 344 carries, 1,574 yards, 4.6 yards/attempt, 13 touchdowns, -0.112 EPA (27th), -8.2% DVOA (18th)

No team in the NFL has scored fewer points than the Jaguars this season, with the team averaging only 14.5 per game. The main issue is the team’s inability to move the ball through the air despite being led by first overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence. With his supporting cast arguably the worst in the league, however, Lawrence — and by extension the Jaguars offense as a whole — has struggled.


Points against: 26.4/game (27th)

Yards given up: 353.2/game (20th)

Passing defense: 335-for-480, 3,446 yards, 20 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 0.236 EPA (31st), 29.2% DVOA (31st)

Rushing defense: 439 carries, 1,852 yards, 4.2 yards/attempt, 18 touchdowns, -0.054 EPA (22nd), -10.0% DVOA (16th)

While the Jacksonville defense has been OK-ish against the run, it has had its fair share of issues versus the pass. The group is ranked 31st in both EPA and DVOA, and has registered a league-worst seven takeaways. Patriots quarterback Mac Jones has playec some up-and-down football in back-to-back games. He has a golden opportunity ahead of him.

Week 1 at Houston Texans: L 37-21

Week 2 vs. Denver Broncos: L 23-13

Week 3 vs. Arizona Cardinals: L 31-19

Week 4 at Cincinnati Bengals: L 24-21

Week 5 vs. Tennessee Titans: L 37-19

Week 6 vs. Miami Dolphins: W 23-20

Week 7: Bye

Week 8 at Seattle Seahawks: L 31-7

Week 9 vs. Buffalo Bills: W 9-6

Week 10 at Indianapolis Colts: L 23-17

Week 11 vs. San Francisco 49ers: L 30-10

Week 12 vs. Atlanta Falcons: L 21-14

Week 13 at Los Angeles Rams: L 37-7

Week 14 at Tennessee Titans: L 20-0

Week 15 vs. Houston Texans: L 30-16

Week 16 at New York Jets: L 26-21

The Jaguars’ season has been a disappointment so far, with the team losing 13 of its 15 games until this point. The only two wins, however, have come against the AFC East: Jacksonville beat the Dolphins in Week 6 before an upset victory over the Bills in Week 9. Other than those two games, however, the team has struggled mightily.

As a result of those struggles and multiple off-field scandals, head coach Urban Meyer was fired ahead of Week 15.

With the NFL adapting its Coronavirus protocols to reduce quarantine to five days regardless of vaccination status, it is possible that players sent to the appropriate reserve list are eligible to return ahead of the game. Jacksonville currently has 15 players listed on the Covid-19 list, but they are included here considering the recent rule change: there is a chance all or most of them play on Sunday.

Players listed in italics are currently on the Covid-19 list.


QB Trevor Lawrence*; RB Dare Ogunbowale; WR Marvin Jones, WR Laviska Shenault Jr, WR Laquon Treadwell; TE Chris Manhertz; LT Cam Robinson, LG Andrew Norwell, C Brandon Linder, RG Will Richardson, RT Jawaan Taylor


Led by first overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence, the Jacksonville offense misses elite playmaking ability across the board — especially with running back James Robinson tearing his Achilles tendon last week. As a result of the injury, fifth-year man Dare Ogunbowale is expected to take over as the starting running back; he might play a prominent role in an offense that might miss multiple starters due to Covid-19.


DE Roy Robertson-Harris, DT Malcom Brown, DE Dawuane Smoot; OLB Josh Allen, ILB Myles Jack, ILB Damien Wilson, OLB K’Lavon Chaisson; CB Shaquill Griffin, CB Tyson Campbell*; S Andrew Wingard, S Andre Cisco*


The Jaguars defense has been hit hard by Covid-19, with four starter-level players currently on the reserve list. While they could come back in time for Sunday’s game, Jacksonville might have to rely on backups to get the job done. The drop-off would be significant, though, especially at linebacker: Josh Allen and Myles Jack are two of the best players on the team.


K Matthew Wright, P Logan Cooke, LS Ross Matiscik; KR/PR Jaydon Mickens

The Jaguars’ special teams group will likely have to operate without nominal return man yet again. With Jamal Agnew still on injured reserve due to a hip injury and unlikely to be activated, Jaydon Mickens will be called upon to run back kicks on Sunday. Mickens is averaging an impressive 13.7 yards per punt return and 21.6 yards per kickoff.

QB Trevor Lawrence: The number one overall selection in this year’s draft, Lawrence has had an up-and-down season so far. Playing with a sub-par supporting cast both on the field and the sidelines, he has completed only 58.7 percent of his passes so far for 3,225 yards with nine touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Lawrence’s immense talent shines through from time to time, but it is obvious he is still adapting to life in the NFL.

WR Marvin Jones: The veteran wide receiver is the clear number one pass catcher for Lawrence. Hauling in 64 passes for 698 yards and three touchdowns, Jones is leading the Jaguars in every major receiving category. He also the only member of Jacksonville’s top three in yards from scrimmage — the others being running back James Robinson and wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. — currently on the active roster.

LB Dawuane Smoot: As far as rushing the passer is concerned, the Jaguars are a two-class society: it is Josh Allen and Dawuane Smoot, and everyone else. With Allen on the Covid-19 list at the moment, Smoot is our pick as a player to watch. The fifth-year man is ranked second behind only Allen’s 5.5 sacks with 5.0 of his own, and has also forced a fumble from his outside linebacker position.

CB Tyson Campbell: A starter-level cornerback for the Jaguars despite his status as a rookie, Campbell has had a solid first year in the NFL. The second-round selection has intercepted a team-high two passes and also leads the team with nine pass deflections. While he has given up a pair of touchdowns as well, the 6-foot-2 defensive back has been one of the best players on an otherwise disappointing team.

Head coach: Darrell Bevell (interim)

Coordinators: Darrell Bevell (offense), Joe Cullen (defense), Nick Sorensen (special teams)

With Urban Meyer getting relieved of his duties in mid-December, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was appointed interim head coach for the rest of the season. Patriots fans will surely remember Bevell as the Seattle Seahawks’ offensive play-caller in Super Bowl 49 — calling the infamous pass play on the goal line that was intercepted by Malcolm Butler to seal a New England victory.

Bevell did not change the structure of Jacksonville’s coaching staff upon Meyer’s departure. He remains as offensive coordinator, with Joe Collen and Nick Sorensen responsible for defense and special teams, respectively.

The Patriots and Jaguars have met 13 times so far, with five of the meetings coming in the postseason.

  • Patriots wins: 11 wins (incl. 4 playoff wins)
  • Jaguars wins: 2 wins (incl. 1 playoff win)

Since their first meeting in 1996, the Patriots and Jaguars have faced off five times in the postseason. New England versus Jacksonville can therefore be seen as a serious postseason rivalry.

That rivalry has been quite lopsided, with the Patriots winning four of the five matchups. They beat the Jaguars during the 1996, 2005, 2007 and 2017 seasons, losing only in 1998. Two of those games — 1996 and 2017 — came in the AFC Championship: New England won them both by final scores of 20-6 and 24-20.

That second meeting remains the last AFC title game to take place at Gillette Stadium, and it was a thriller. The Jaguars took 10-point lead in the early fourth quarter before Tom Brady and Danny Amendola hooked up twice to overcome the deficit; Stephon Gilmore sealed the deal with a pass breakup on fourth down.