For Pete's Sake

Five things to know about the AFC Championship Game matchup

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The Associated Press

This is what anyone expected heading into the weekend: Jacksonville vs. New England in the AFC Championship Game.

The Jaguars stunned the Steelers 45-42 in Pittsburgh and will play at the New England Patriots, who thumped the Titans on Saturday night.

The AFC Championship Game is next Sunday at 2:05 p.m. It will be broadcast on CBS (Channel 5).

Here are five things to know about the game:

1. The series

The Patriots have dominated, winning 10 of the 11 meetings. Jacksonville’s only victory came in a Wild Card Game after the 1998 season. The Jaguars won that meeting 25-10.

In three games at Gillette Stadium since 2008, the Patriots have won each game by an average of 24.33 points.

2. Defenses

The Patriots’ scoring defense ranked fifth in the NFL (18.5 points per game), and it gave up just 14 points to the Titans on Saturday night.

Jacksonville was first in the AFC (16.8 ppg) and in yards allowed per game (286.1). However, the Jaguars gave up some big plays in their win at Pittsburgh as the Steelers scored 42 points.

3. Ball security

The Patriots turned the ball over just 12 times (eight interceptions and four fumbles), the second fewest in the NFL in 2017 (the Chiefs were first at 11) and the third fewest in New England history.

Jacksonville turned the ball over 23 times, but still finished the season with a plus-10 differential, thanks to 33 turnovers caused. They had 21 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries.

In Sunday’s win over the Steelers, the Jaguars forced two key turnovers in the first half, including a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Jacksonville is 10-0 this season in games when quarterback Blake Bortles doesn’t have a turnover.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had at least one interception in five of his last six games.

4. The quarterbacks

Bortles has a better postseason winning percentage than Brady. Bortles is 2-0 all-time. Brady’s winning percentage is .743. Of course, that’s in 35 games. He is 26-9.

Brady led the NFL in attempts (581) and yards (4,577). He threw 32 touchdowns against eight interceptions.

Bortles threw for 3,687 yards, 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. But Bortles, who finished is in his fourth season, rushed for 322 yards and forces defenses to make sure he doesn’t scramble for a first down.

5. Jalen Ramsey

The Jaguars have one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in Jalen Ramsey, and it will be interesting to see if he causes problems for Brady.

The Associated Press, quoting Pro Football Focus stats, noted that Ramsey allowed 47 receptions for 586 yards and three touchdowns during the regular season.

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff

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