Preston: Old-school Jaguars would be the hardest out within the AFC

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The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers are the favorites to play within the AFC championship recreation in just a few weeks, however the perfect workforce could be the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Jaguars (10-Four) are scary good.

They have the NFL’s prime protection and dashing assault, a mixture that’s nonetheless the perfect, although some think about it outdated, formulation for successful the Super Bowl. The Jaguars are balanced, and the workforce with the fewest weaknesses normally prevails.

The Ravens?

They’ve been inconsistent all season however have a reputable likelihood due to their excellent particular groups, good protection and sound working recreation. Now, if they may ever discover a vertical passing recreation …

Hopefully, the Ravens (Eight-6) don’t need to play Jacksonville till late within the postseason. There’s a superb chance the Ravens will find yourself being the fifth-seeded wild card and play the Kansas City Chiefs (Eight-6) on the street in a first-round recreation.

The Ravens are at present the seventh seed behind the Buffalo Bills (Eight-6) and Tennessee Titans (Eight-6), however these groups gained’t win out. The Bills nonetheless need to journey to the New England Patriots (11-Three) and Miami Dolphins (6-Eight), whereas the Titans host the Los Angeles Rams (10-Four) and Jaguars.

As for the Ravens, they host two of the six AFC groups which have already been eradicated from the postseason — the Indianapolis Colts (Three-11) and Cincinnati Bengals (5-9). It doesn’t get a lot simpler. The soccer gods have smiled upon the Ravens, and they are going to be given an added blessing if the Ravens play the Chiefs and never Jacksonville within the opening spherical.

Kansas City has a number of offensive weapons. The Chiefs have a superb, but unspectacular , quarterback in Alex Smith. They have nice velocity in working again Kareem Hunt (242 carries, 1,201 yards, six touchdowns) and receivers Tyreek Hill (69 receptions, 1,074 yards, seven touchdowns) and Travis Kelce (79 receptions, 991 yards).

But they remind me of a number of the previous Denver Broncos groups that had a number of fluff however no substance. They rating a number of factors (25.6 per recreation) but in addition enable lots (21.6). They are tender on protection, and that’s the place the Ravens can pound Kanas City and put on the Chiefs down.

Playing on the street shouldn’t be an issue for the Ravens this season. They had been Four-Four in opposing cities in 2017. Granted, these wins got here in opposition to Cincinnati, the Oakland Raiders, the Green Bay Packers and the Cleveland Browns, however that’s higher than the 2-6 street information they’d in every of the earlier two seasons.

It’s not as if Ravens coach John Harbaugh discovered a magic potion, however this group simply finds methods to win video games. The Ravens don’t concern enjoying New England in Foxborough, Mass., or the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

They’ve been there, completed that and gained. Both Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Patriots quarterbackTom Brady have taken the Ravens aside at instances, however the Ravens nonetheless have an affordable likelihood to win. They are aware of each groups and their techniques, and there’s no concern issue.

But Jacksonville is completely different. The Jaguars crushed the Ravens, 44-7, in London on Sept. 24. They proved that recreation wasn’t a fluke by beating Pittsburgh, 30-9, a few weeks later.

Offensively, the Ravens can’t match up with the Jaguars protection, which is permitting solely 14.9 factors and 168.9 passing yards per recreation. This group is younger, and linebackers comparable to Telvin Smith, Myles Jack and Paul Posluszny fly to the ball.

The Jaguars are averaging 149.1 dashing yards and are led by massive rookie working again Leonard Fournette, who has 923 yards on 231 carries. If the Jaguars get a lead, it’s exhausting to return again on them as a result of they’ve two good cornerbacks in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye and a standout robust security in Barry Church.

There are some considerations about Jacksonville’s lack of playoff expertise particularly quarterback Blake Bortles. There have been instances this season when the Jaguars have had meltdowns on protection due to their overaggressiveness.

But they’re younger and don’t have anything to lose. They play with a sure recklessness. New England and Pittsburgh have their share of star gamers, and the Ravens play with a powerful work ethic and angle.

But the Jaguars are old style. They have an excellent protection and powerful working recreation. They would be the powerful out.

Tougher than every other workforce within the AFC.

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