If there's one candidate game to be the blowout of the week, it's likely the Patriots' trip to play the Jaguars in Jacksonville. One of the NFL's best teams will look to keep itself in the hunt for a first round bye in the playoffs against a team that is only in the hunt for the first overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft.
It's the third time in 2012 that the Jaguars have been underdogs by margin of more than two touchdowns, but in each of the first two against the Packers and Texans, the Jaguars managed to keep it close, even forcing overtime against the latter. However, the Patriots have never been ones to have difficulty with the Jaguars in the past, posting a 5-0 record against the team in the regular season and 3-1 in the playoffs.
In their last meeting, Tom Brady finished with more touchdowns (4) than incompletions (3) in a 35-7 domination of the Jaguars.
Meet the Jaguars
The most yards Chad Henne ever accumulated in the NFL was a game against the Patriots while he was still a member of the Dolphins as the former-Michigan quarterback finished with 416 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He approached that mark in Week 11, compiling 354 yards and four touchdowns against the Texans, but has struggled since then. Henne hasn't received much help from the running game, but he has had Cecil Shorts III, as the second-year receiver is just 75 yards away from becoming the first Jaguars receiver to surpass 1,000 yards receiving since 2005.
On defense, the Jaguars have taken a significant step backwards from the 2011 season, but could have a boost in Week 16 with the return of linebacker Daryl Smith. The team captain was taken off the injured reserve on Saturday and will return to his place in the Jaguars defense where he has played in 131 games over the last eight seasons. Fellow linebacker Paul Posluszny leads the team with 122 tackles and three interceptions.
Meet the Patriots
Tom Brady carries a streak of 46 consecutive games with a touchdown pass into Jacksonville, a place where he has had plenty of success in the past, including a win in Super Bowl XXXIX. In three games against the Jaguars, Brady has compiled seven touchdowns and no interceptions for a combined passer rating of 118.4 During Brady's decade of dominance, Wes Welker has become a fixture on the Patriots offense and became the first player in NFL history to post five consecutive seasons with more than 100 receptions.
Defense hasn't been as strong as the offense in New England, but there is some promising youth on the unit. First round draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Chandler Jones, leads all rookies with six sacks in 2012 and second round rookie Tavon Wilson has four interceptions. That's second on the team behind Devon McCourty as the third-year cornerback has recorded picks in each of the last two weeks.
Local Takes: Jaguars
Alfie Crow from Big Cat Country isn't ruling out the possibility that the Jaguars could rebuild quickly and be competitive in 2013:
Even when you replace bad players with average players, it can make a massive difference in a football team.
I'm not saying the Jaguars will or should be playoff contenders in 2013, but I'm not going to pretend like it's some impossible feat that hasn't been done before.
Local Takes: Patriots
While Gronkowski will inevitably be the beneficiary of his usual red zone looks and utilization in two-TE sets when he returns, opposing defenses will now have no choice but to account for Lloyd, who is starting to emerge as the one weapon many saw the Patriots lacking during their 2011 postseason campaign.
Follow the Fun
Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Big Cat Country and Pats Pulpit, for more analysis and highlights from the game.
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
Local news can't even say Rashad right. HIS NAME HAS ONLY 1 'R'!— Alfie Crow (@AlfieBCC) December 21, 2012
Jaguars beat writer, @RyanOHalloran
Belichick on Shorts: "He’s really impressive. He’s one of the best guys we’ve played against all year.I think he does everything well."— Ryan O'Halloran (@ryanohalloran) December 19, 2012
Patriots beat writer, @GregABedard
Don't disagree "@zanewpenton: Breer just tweeted Welker will be playing for "highest" bidder next year. No hometown discount. Ur thoughts?"— Greg A. Bedard (@GregABedard) December 19, 2012
The pick: 34-10, Patriots
The Patriots are the biggest favorites of the week with a 14.5 point spread in their favor or as much as 15.5 in some books, according to OddsShark.
The Jaguars will wrap up their season with a trip to play a road game against the Tennessee Titans, while the Patriots will host the Miami Dolphins in a game that could be important in AFC playoff seeding.