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Jaguars OK being underdog

Field Level Media
January 17. 2018 11:48PM
Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone looks on from the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Heinz Field. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

By virtue of winning five Super Bowls during the ongoing reign of coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, the New England Patriots are favorites this time of year, an idea Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone views as undisputed fact.

New England is favored by 9½ points Sunday in the AFC Championship Game against the Jaguars, who upset the No. 2 seed in the AFC last week with a 45-42 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“When you’re playing against New England, who hasn’t been an underdog?” Marrone quipped Wednesday.

Vegas oddsmakers sided with the Patriots in all 18 of their games this season. The last time the Patriots were underdogs was Week 1 of the 2016 season, when Brady was on the sideline watching Jimmy Garoppolo start at Arizona. With Brady healthy, the Patriots haven’t been the underdog since 2014.

Since 2002, the Patriots are 124-24 (83.8 winning percentage) in the regular and postseason at Gillette Stadium.

“One time, someone asked what’s the toughest place to play,” Marrone said. “I said Gillette Stadium in New England. They said, come on. I’m like, look at their record. I’ve always thought it was the most difficult place I’ve ever played.”

As head coach of the Bills, Marrone was 1-1 at New England. But the Jaguars are 0-10 against the Patriots overall since their lone win in the all-time series in the 1999 wild-card game at Jacksonville.

Belichick endorsed Marrone as head coach of the Jaguars during the interview process last January. The two teams shared the field in joint training camp practices in August.

But Belichick needed some time to get up to speed on Jacksonville’s personnel on Monday, he admitted, without directly indicating the team had planned to see the Steelers in a repeat of the 2017 AFC Championship. He pointed directly at the size and athleticism on defense as a concern.

“They have some fast players. Some big players, too, like (defensive tackles) Marcell Dareus, Malik Jackson and guys like that,” Belichick said. “I mean, they’ve got a lot of good football players. They bring a lot of problems. They bring speed, size, power, instincts, athleticism. (Jalen) Ramsey — I mean, he’s a big corner now. They’ve got a lot of good football players that have a lot of skill.”

Marrone might be able to glean some big-game advice from Tom Coughlin, who guided the New York Giants to wins over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII and XLVI. Coughlin, vice president of football operations for the Jaguars, preached “disciplined pressure” with the front four to contain Brady when he was with the Giants.

“You have to be very disciplined, especially against teams like the Patriots,” Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell said in an interview with NFL Network’s Rich Eisen this week. “(Coughlin) established that and accountability from the day he got here.”


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