Patriots

The next great in-game hit!

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The next great in-game hit!

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

A woman I know recently turned down an interesting job opportunity. But I've always been a fan of the "Show, don't tell" rule in writing, so here's the play-by-play.

TV PRODUCER 1: To woman Thanks for coming in and listening to our proposal. We've enjoyed your work in the sports media industry and think this opportunity is right up your alley.
FEMALE REPORTER: Thanks! I appreciate it. What's the concept?

TV PRODUCER 2: The Bruins really don't get the play they should in this city; we want to change that.

FEMALE REPORTER: Sounds great. You're right that hockey doesn't get the attention it deserves from Boston media.

TV PRODUCER 1: Excellent. So here's what we're thinking: we'll have you go to every game, both at home and on the road. Does that sound feasible?

FEMALE REPORTER: Nods Absolutely. I'm willing to make that commitment to the right project.

TV PRODUCER 1: Smiles Great! So, at some point during the second period of every game we'll have you hop on out to the concourse for a three or so minutes.

FEMALE REPORTER: The concourse? Hrm. That's certainly different.

TV PRODUCER 2: Chuckles Well, that's where the booze is, silly!

FEMALE REPORTER: Looks confused Excuse me?

TV PRODUCER 2: We don't want you to get in Naoko Funayama's way or anything while she's reporting and doing player interviews.
TV PRODUCER 1: Exactly! We're thinking for the first segment that we have you chug a beer. Just one to start, you know?

TV PRODUCER 2: The WHOLE thing, of course.
TV PRODUCER 1: Of course!

FEMALE REPORTER: Slowly shaking head Wait, wait. During the game? Beer? I don't understand....

TV PRODUCER: But that's not all! We're thinking keg stands and body shots during the playoffs!

TV PRODUCER 1 and TV PRODUCER 2 high-five.
FEMALE REPORTER: Covers face with hands There are so many things wrong with this... First of all, I can't drink at work. What the hell are you thinking?! What does this have to do with being a reporter? How will this shine a brighter light on the Bruins?

TV PRODUCER 2: You're reporting on each venue. See, we'll get a feel for each city and talk to some of the local vendors.

TV PRODUCER 1: EVERYBODY wants to know about the vendors.

TV PRODUCER 2: Right. See, we'll really be diving into the culture of hockey. Bruins hockey is all about people. And what do people do at sporting events? They get hammered! This segment will be gritty, it'll be real. Remember -- it's about the people.

TV PRODUCER 1 and TV PRODUCER both tent their hands and look expectantly at FEMALE REPORTER. FEMALE REPORTER: Pauses Are you guys drunk right now?

TV PRODUCER 1 and TV PRODUCER 2 look at each other. They look back at FEMALE REPORTER.
TV PRODUCER 1: I'd call it a "good buzz."

TV PRODUCER 2: Yeah. Good Buzz.
TV PRODUCER 1: Watch this video. This is proof of the brilliance of this concept.

FEMALE REPORTER: Stands Go to hell. Seriously. Walks out
TV PRODUCER 1 AND TV PRODUCER 2 sit for a moment before grabbing 40s from a mini-fridge. They hit replay on the video.

TV PRODUCER 1: Good stuff.
TV PRODUCER 2: Great stuff.

Video ends. TV PRODUCER 1 AND TV PRODUCER 2 are quiet for a moment.

TV PRODUCER 1: We can find somebody else to do the Bruins Booze hits.

TV PRODUCER 2: Swallows beer Yup. We can.

Will the real Jaguars defense please stand up?

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Will the real Jaguars defense please stand up?

FOXBORO -- Are we giving the Jaguars defense too much credit?

The numbers, on the surface, paint Jacksonville's defense as one of the best the NFL has seen in years. They finished the season as the league's top passing defense in terms of yards allowed, and they were second when it came to points allowed, total yards and sacks.

MORE - Bortles earning respect from teammates, Patriots

Then there are the postseason awards that have been bestowed upon their defensive regulars. Jalen Ramsey, AJ Bouye, Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson have all been named Pro Bowlers. Ramsey and Campbell are First-Team All-Pros, while Bouye and Telvin Smith are Second-Teamers. Campbell is in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. 

So why, then, is there this lingering feeling that the Jaguars defense isn't all it's cracked up to be? They allowed Ben Roethlisberger to heave his way to 42 points in the Divisional Round. In Week 16, they gave up 44 to Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners. Hell, Blaine Gabbert and the Cardinals put up 27 and beat them in Week 12. 

Those results don't exactly scream "all-time defense." So what is Jacksonville? Overrated? Properly rated? 

One thing is for certain: The Jags played an easy schedule. The combined winning percentage of their opponents in 2017 was a league-low 44 percent. And when it comes to the defense in particular, they had the second-easiest schedule in the league, according to Football Outsiders. It didn't hurt that they were able to play the Colts with Jacoby Brissett, the Texans before Deshaun Watson became a star and after he got hurt, and the NFL's No. 23-ranked Titans offense. Twice. Each. They also got the Ravens (No. 27 offense), Jets (No. 28), Bengals (No. 32), Browns (No. 24) and Cardinals (No. 22). Add it all up and that's nine games -- more than half their schedule -- against bottom-third NFL offenses. Two more games came against a Houston offense that featured starting quarterbacks Tom Savage and TJ Yates. 

When you dig into the analytics it's harder to find ways to poke holes in Jacksonville's credibility as a top-tier defensive unit. Pro Football Focus grades the Jags as their No. 1 defense, and it's really not close. Football Outsiders calls them their No. 1 defense in terms of DVOA. Even when you factor in some of its recent performances -- like letdowns versus the Steelers and Niners -- Jacksonville is still the league's No. 4 defense in weighted DVOA, which is adjusted so that games that were played earlier in the season are gradually less important. 

At the same time, the analytics can be occasionally unkind to the Jaguars. Football Outsiders has them ranked as one of the most inconsistent defenses in the league. According to their variance statistic, Jacksonville is the fourth most inconsistent defense in football. A deeper dive into the numbers has also located an apparent soft underbelly of the Jaguars defense. Per Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis, the Jaguars are dominant against three-receiver sets -- No. 1 in the league, in fact -- but they're the No. 23 defense in the NFL when it comes to defending personnel groupings that feature one or two wide receivers. That would explain, in part, why the Titans (who Sharp rated as the least-likely team to employ three-receiver sets this season) and Niners (who went with more "21" and "12" personnel looks late in the season) were able to beat the Jaguars. 

The most difficult argument against the legitimacy of the Jaguars' defensive rankings is the talent they put on the field on a weekly basis. Their roster, defensively at least, stacks up with some of the most imposing defensive units in recent memory. The Seahawks had four First and Second-Team All-Pros on their defense in 2014. The Broncos defense had five Pro Bowlers in 2015. The Jaguars have five players who were named either All-Pros or Pro Bowlers or both this year, and they probably should've had a sixth in pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue, who recorded 12 sacks (eighth in the NFL) and a league-best six forced fumbles. 

The verdict? The Jaguars defense is loaded with blue-chip players. It will be the best unit the Patriots offense has seen this year. But they have been inconsistent, they have holes -- which we touched upon in this week's Quick Slants the Podcast with Jerod Mayo -- and there remains the very real possibility that Tom Brady and his teammates will light up the Gillette Stadium scoreboard on Sunday. 

Now, is Brady healthy? Good question. Will he have enough time to throw? We'll see. But if the answer to both of those questions is "yes" (or "enough"), then the Patriots should be headed to Minnesota. This Jaguars defense is very good, but it's far from inpenetrable.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

BEST OF BST PODCAST: Tom Brady injures right hand during practice

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BEST OF BST PODCAST: Tom Brady injures right hand during practice

0:41 - Tom Brady injured his right hand during practice on Wednesday. Tom Curran, Albert Breer, Michael Holley, and Tom Giles discuss how this injury could impact Brady’s ability to throw against the Jaguars on Sunday.

6:06 - Isaiah Thomas has asked the Celtics to cancel his video tribute on Paul Pierce Night, and Pierce said that Thomas was trying to ‘punk’ Danny Ainge into a tribute video. Michael Holley, Kyle Draper, and Tom Giles debate if Isaiah Thomas or Paul Pierce is in the wrong.

11:19 - Albert Breer discusses how much credit Tom Coughlin deserves for the Jaguars great season and if Coughlin’s success against the Patriots and Bill Belichick will come into play on Sunday.

15:37 - Joe Haggerty joins BST from the TD Garden to break down the Bruins win over the Canadiens and Claude Julien’s return to Boston.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE EPISODE