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AFC Championship - Sunday, Jan. 21
By: Staff Writer - StatFox
Published: 1/17/2018  at  10:50:00 PM
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AFC-Championship — Gillette Stadium — Foxborough, MA
Kickoff: Sunday, 3:05 p.m. ET
Line: Patriots -9, Total: 46.5

The New England Patriots will take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in Foxborough for the AFC Championship, with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

The Jaguars stunned the Steelers with a 45-42 upset victory Sunday afternoon at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field. Rookie RB Leonard Fournette ran for 109 yards and three touchdowns, and QB Blake Bortles added 214 passing yards and a vital fourth-quarter score. Jacksonville raced to a 21-0 lead, fended off a Steelers rally and responded every time Pittsburgh challenged. QB Ben Roethlisberger threw for 469 yards and set a franchise post-season record with five touchdown passes, but he was also intercepted once and had a fumble returned for a score and couldn’t quite keep pace with Jacksonville.

The Patriots trailed early Saturday night before surging past the Tennessee Titans to win 35-14 and advance to the AFC Championship game for the seventh straight year. New England trailed 7-0 after one quarter, as the team’s first two offensive drives failed to produce points. The Patriots notched two quick scores within minutes, including on the third play of the second quarter, and never looked back, scoring 35 unanswered points before Tennessee added a late touchdown. Quarterback Tom Brady finished 35-53 for 337 yards and 3 touchdowns, setting a new NFL-record with his 10th 300-yard passing game in the playoffs. Brady also became the oldest quarterback to win a postseason game at 40 years, 5 months and 10 days old. RB James White had two touchdowns, while TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Chris Hogan each had one. Veteran RB Brandon Bolden, who didn't score a touchdown all season, ran two yards for a third-quarter score, his first rushing TD since 2014. The New England defense sacked Titans QB Marcus Mariota eight times.

While Jacksonville’s defense allowed fewer passing yards per game than any NFL team during the 2017 regular season, the Jaguars’ defensive backfield will certainly have its work cut out for them in this one. Including Sunday’s win, Jacksonville has gone 5-4 on the road this season, including a pair of wins in Pittsburgh while allowing Roethlisberger to throw for a combined 763 yards in those two games. The three other quarterbacks the Jaguars have beaten on the road have been Houston’s Tom Savage, Indianapolis’ Jacoby Brissett and Cleveland’s DeShone Kizer, who ranked 34th, 24th and 37th, respectively, in 2017 passer rating among the 37 NFL quarterbacks who started at least five games. Jacksonville’s four road losses were to the Jets’ Josh McCown, Arizona’s Blaine Gabbert (who was making his second start of the season), San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo (whose team scored 44 points in his fourth start of the season) and Tennessee’s Mariota (who finished 29th out of 37 in passer rating). The Jaguars went 1-3 during the regular season against teams that made the playoffs, the one win being in Pittsburgh. The three losses came at Tennessee, and at home against the Titans and the Rams, both of which won in Jacksonville by double-digits.

Thanks in large part to an NFL-best average of 141.4 rushing yards per game during the 2017 regular season, Jacksonville ranked sixth in the league in total offense with an average of 365.9 yards per game. The Patriots, however, are 8-0 ATS since the start of last season against opponents that gain an average of at least 350 total yards per game. They’re also 14-3 ATS over that same timeframe when playing against a team with a winning record, which includes a 10-1 ATS mark against such opponents in games taking place after the midway point of the season.

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