The Patriots Should Fear The Jaguars

The Patriots Should Fear The Jaguars

Now is not the time for hubris and premature celebration.

After the Jaguars’ narrow victory over Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers in last Sunday’s shootout, the shift of focus in Jacksonville has quickly turned to the Patriots. While New England is still the odds-on favorite to repeat as Super Bowl champions, the road to a sixth Super Bowl championship might not be as simple as it looks.

Although Tom Brady and the Patriots embarrassed the Tennessee Titans last Saturday night, the Jaguars are a much different beast. Throughout the course of the season, Jacksonville’s defense has been widely regarded as one of, if not, the best defense in the entire league, as Cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey have proved to make up the most threatening secondary in the NFL. Together, the two deadly defensive backs combined for 10 interceptions, the most among all Cornerback duos in the entire NFL. With the Patriots expected to rely heavily on the passing game, which ranked 2nd in the NFL in 2017, Bouye and Ramsey are sure to give Tom Brady his biggest challenge of the season.

In addition to Jacksonville’s impeccable secondary, the remainder of the Jaguars’ defense will challenge Brady and the rest of the New England offense on Sunday. The Jacksonville pass rush has proved to be the most menacing force in recent memory, as the Jaguars have racked up the most sacks in the NFL with 55 during the regular season and four more that they have managed to tack on during the Postseason. With big bodies like Malik Jackson and Marcell Dareus coming off the line, Tom Brady has much more to worry about than the heavy coverage he will face down the field. In 2017, the Patriots offensive line was very average, as Tom Brady was sacked on 35 occasions and hit another 84 times. On Sunday, the Patriots will be facing the single best defense in football and it would not be surprising to see Tom Brady spend plenty of time on the ground.

While the Jacksonville defense is certainly noteworthy, their young and dangerous offense has looked impressive throughout the course of the season. Led by a dual threat of QB Blake Bortles and rookie RB Leonard Fournette, the Jaguars offense has looked occasionally inconsistent, but consistently solid. Although the Jaguars scored 45 points last week, Blake Bortles played an incredibly average game as he completed 14 of 26 passes for 214 yards and only 1 TD. In a game where the Jaguars scored the most points they had all season, Bortles looked like a lackluster run-of-the-mill QB while the running game picked up the slack. Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon combined for 129 yards on the ground, as well as 4 TDs between the two of them, 3 of which came from Fournette, his highest single-game TD total all season. Together, the impressive RB tandem added 67 yards on 5 receptions, with Yeldon accounting for 57 yards on his own.

While the Patriots have focused their efforts into creating a “pass first” offense, the Jaguars have relied heavily on the production they’ve received from the Running back position, as they ranked 1st overall in rushing yards per game with 141.4. Needless to say, two very different teams will meet in Foxborough on Sunday as a team full of young startups will do everything in their power to shock the world and beat a team composed of experienced veterans. The Patriots are sitting as 10-point favorites with a 81% chance to win, but Jacksonville’s stout defense and explosive offense could prove to be the greatest challenge the Patriots have faced all season.

And although Tom Brady has already certified himself as the greatest Quarterback of our time, a loss on Sunday to Tom Coughlin’s Jaguars would cement the 2017-2018 Patriots’ season as the 2nd biggest disappointment in the history of modern sports. The only bigger disappointment came 10 years ago when the Patriots lost Super Bowl XLII to Tom Coughlin’s Giants.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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To The Coach Who Ruined The Game For Me

We can't blame you completely, but no one has ever stood up to you before.

I know you never gave it a second thought, the idea that you're the reason I and many others, never went any farther in our athletic careers.

I know you didn't sincerely care about our mental health, as long as we were physically healthy and our bodies were working enough to play. It's obvious your calling wasn't coaching and you weren't meant to work with young adults, some who look to you as a parent figure or a confidant.

I also know that if we were to express our concerns about the empty feeling we began to feel when we stepped onto the court, you wouldn't have taken the conversation seriously because it wasn't your problem.

I know we can't blame you completely, no one has ever stood up to you before. No one said anything when girls would spend their time in the locker room crying because of something that was said or when half the team considered quitting because it was just too much.

We can't get mad at the obvious favoritism because that's how sports are played.

Politics plays a huge role and if you want playing time, you have to know who to befriend. We CAN get mad at the obvious mistreatment, the empty threats, the verbal abuse, “It's not what you say, its how you say it."

We can get mad because a sport that we loved so deeply and had such passion for, was taken away from us single-handedly by an adult who does not care. I know a paycheck meant more to you than our wellbeing, and I know in a few years you probably won't even remember who we are, but we will always remember.

We will remember how excited we used to get on game days and how passionate we were when we played. How we wanted to continue on with our athletic careers to the next level when playing was actually fun. We will also always remember the sly remarks, the obvious dislike from the one person who was supposed to support and encourage us.

We will always remember the day things began to change and our love for the game started to fade.

I hope that one day, for the sake of the young athletes who still have a passion for what they do, you change.

I hope those same athletes walk into practice excited for the day, to get better and improve, instead of walking in with anxiety and worrying about how much trouble they would get into that day. I hope those athletes play their game and don't hold back when doing it, instead of playing safe, too afraid to get pulled and benched the rest of the season.

I hope they form an incredible bond with you, the kind of bond they tell their future children about, “That's the coach who made a difference for me when I was growing up, she's the reason I continued to play."

I don't blame you for everything that happened, we all made choices. I just hope that one day, you realize that what you're doing isn't working. I hope you realize that before any more athletes get to the point of hating the game they once loved.

To the coach that ruined the game for me, I hope you change.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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Thank You, Swimming, For Not Giving Up On Me When I Gave Up On You

It's something I cherish, even if it isn't going to be a part of my life forever.


We choose not to think about it. It's hard to comprehend the countless hours we've dedicated, the accomplished goals, the unaccomplished goals, the heartbreak, and the victory. We try not to let the highs get to0 high or the lows get too low. Our parents have spent likely too much money on equipment, training and pasta dinners for carb overloads.

While our dreams transpired from being an Olympic gold medalist to somehow making it to the college level our passion was unwavering.

Passion is the thing that never went away.

When I was six years old I never considered exactly why I dedicated my afternoons and weekends to swimming back and forth over and over again. Every day, I jumped on the block high off of ring pops and pixie stick sugar and raced my heart out for a blue ribbon.

As I got older, the blue ribbon wasn't enough so I stopped eating candy before my events and even started drinking some water before I got on the block (I think I even warmed up a time or two). When I started high school life was no longer as cookie cutter as it was for me at six years old and I began to question the three hours I spent at the pool every afternoon. I even began to realize that football games, date nights out with the 16-year-old who had a car and girls nights with my friends consistently trumped the concept of swim practice.

My progress reflected my new found interests and I quickly began to loathe the sport that was once my very reason for waking up in the morning. So why didn't I quit? I honestly have no idea and I couldn't justify it if I tried. I hated everything about the sport but I couldn't bring myself to throw in the towel completely. I could blame it on my coaches, I could blame it on my parents and I could blame it on the 16-year-old boy with a car.

Really, the only person I can blame is myself.

In the midst of my highly hormonal teenage years, I was more than capable of identifying anything and everything that could possibly take the blame for my increasing times, destroyed mindset and negative attitude. I hated my mother for forcing me to go to practice every day. I hated my coaches for not believing in me. I hated my teammates for not hating swimming as much as I did.

Looking back, my mother still saw me as the 6-year-old girl with a ring pop in one hand and a blue ribbon in the other and she blamed herself for my depleting passion and was desperate for it to return. If I was my coaches, I probably wouldn't have believed in me either because I surely didn't believe in myself. As for my teammates, many of them started swimming much later than I did, and I now understand why they may not have had the same resentment and struggles that I was feeling at the time. I realize now that all of these issues stemmed from one major internal issue: I didn't believe in myself.

I tried to fool myself into it a few times. I'd take a deep breath, climb on the block, tell myself I could make it through the race and touch the wall without looking up at the clock because I already knew the result was not one I wanted to see. I let my times reflect my self-worth which was ignorant because it is virtually impossible to compete well when you do not believe in yourself.

I pretended to let the comments about my times being slower roll off my shoulders, but they etched themselves in my mind and echoed through every race I swam. I pretended not to care that my coach forgot to get my splits on my race, but for some reason the next time I raced I didn't feel particularly inclined to put my best foot forward. I was desperate to love the sport that had once been the source of my happiness, and the heartbreak that came with my new found hatred for it was overbearing.

I was trying so hard to love it, but I was struggling to make it through.

There are days where I do not touch the times I did as a 12-year-old girl and there are days where I choose a date night over swim practice. Sometimes, I even turn off my alarm in the morning and pretend that I forgot to set it just because I don't feel like getting out of bed for practice.

There are meets where I add 10 seconds and there are meets where tears fill my goggles in the warm down pool. There are coaches who still don't believe in me and there are "friends" who still laugh at my times. But, there are coaches who do believe in me and there are friends who do celebrate my success and unfortunately, both of these realities go hand in hand.

So no, I am no Olympic gold medalist and in three short years, swimming will likely just be a memory of mine. But, it will be a memory I cherish and a memory I love and I couldn't ask for much more than that.

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