The Patriots Should Fear The Jaguars

The Patriots Should Fear The Jaguars

Now is not the time for hubris and premature celebration.
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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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The Coach That Killed My Passion

An open letter to the coach that made me hate a sport I once loved.
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I fell in love with the game in second grade. I lived for every practice and every game. I lived for the countless hours in the gym or my driveway perfecting every shot, every pass and every move I could think of. Every night after dinner, I would go shoot and would not allow myself to go inside until I hit a hundred shots. I had a desire to play, to get better and to be the best basketball player I could possibly be.

I had many coaches between church leagues, rec leagues, personal coaches, basketball camps, middle school and high school. Most of the coaches I had the opportunity to play for had a passion for the game like I did. They inspired me to never stop working. They would tell me I had a natural ability. I took pride in knowing that I worked hard and I took pride in the compliments that I got from my coaches and other parents. I always looked forward to the drills and, believe it or not, I even looked forward to the running. These coaches had a desire to teach, and I had a desire to learn through every good and bad thing that happened during many seasons. Thank you to the coaches that coached and supported me through the years.

SEE ALSO: My Regrets From My Time As A College Softball Player

Along with the good coaches, are a few bad coaches. These are the coaches that focused on favorites instead of the good of the entire team. I had coaches that no matter how hard I worked, it would never be good enough for them. I had coaches that would take insults too far on the court and in the classroom.

I had coaches that killed my passion and love for the game of basketball.

When a passion dies, it is quite possibly the most heartbreaking thing ever. A desire you once had to play every second of the day is gone; it turns into dreading every practice and game. It turns into leaving every game with earphones in so other parents don't talk to you about it. It meant dreading school the next day due to everyone talking about the previous game. My passion was destroyed when a coach looked at me in the eyes and said, "You could go to any other school and start varsity, but you just can't play for me."

SEE ALSO: Should College Athletes Be Limited To One Sport?

Looking back now at the amount of tears shed after practices and games, I just want to say to this coach: Making me feel bad about myself doesn't make me want to play and work hard for you, whether in the classroom or on the court. Telling me that, "Hard work always pays off" and not keeping that word doesn't make me want to work hard either. I spent every minute of the day focusing on making sure you didn't see the pain that I felt, and all of my energy was put towards that fake smile when I said I was OK with how you treated me. There are not words for the feeling I got when parents of teammates asked why I didn't play more or why I got pulled after one mistake; I simply didn't have an answer. The way you made me feel about myself and my ability to play ball made me hate myself; not only did you make me doubt my ability to play, you turned my teammates against me to where they didn't trust my abilities. I would not wish the pain you caused me on my greatest enemy. I pray that one day, eventually, when all of your players quit coming back that you realize that it isn't all about winning records. It’s about the players. You can have winning records without a good coach if you have a good team, but you won’t have a team if you can't treat players with the respect they deserve.

SEE ALSO: To The Little Girl Picking Up A Basketball For The First Time


Cover Image Credit: Equality Charter School

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Taking A Step Back From My Sport Allowed Me To Be Able To Work On These 3 Things

Sometimes you need time away to appreciate the things you love.

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Since the age of nine, horses have been my whole life. Before college, I never had your typical teenage experience. My weekends were spent driving two hours one way to train with a top show barn. My mom and I lived out of our suitcases during the summers, traveling from one show to the next.

The only glimpse of the senior prom I got was through Snapchat's my friends sent of them having the time of their life, while I was going to bed at nine to make sure I had plenty of sleep to compete the next day. I even graduated early to go work for a show barn in Florida for five months. I missed out on a lot, but it never felt that way because of how passionate I was about the sport. I was all in, I loved the thrill of competing, the early mornings, the long days, and most of all: the horses. If you would have told me that I would be here writing about feeling burned out a year ago, I would have laughed.

Going away to college and having to put a bit of pause on my athletic career allowed me to take a step back, breathe, and realize there is so much more than horse shows and blue ribbons to this world. If I could instill a piece of wisdom to my younger self it would be that taking a step back at times is the best thing you can do for yourself. Here is what I learned:

1. Mental health

As many of you know, the pressure of succeeding can put a toll on anyone. I have always been extremely hard on myself, but when I was showing almost every weekend I really started to notice that I would feel upset more than I felt happy. I could win the class but still, come out of the ring criticizing myself over every little thing that went wrong. Because of this, I went into the ring nervous and doubtful. It wasn't fun anymore.

After taking a step back, I have realized that there will always be ups and downs in any sport. I now go into the ring much more confident and I come out smiling- even when it didn't go as planned. There will always be another chance.

2. Physical health

Like any sport, riding takes a toll on your body. After working in Florida for five months, riding up to 12 horses a day, I really felt like something was wrong with my back. However, I pushed through the pain, convincing myself of the quote "no pain no gain". I continued to ignore it, until one day it was unbearable.

I went to the doctor and sure enough, I had herniated my L5 disc. He told us this was completely preventable if I would have rested or taken an hour out of my day to ice and stretch when the pain started. After months of healing and being on a first name basis with my chiropractor, I have realized just how important it is to put my wellness first.

3. Relationships

Taking a step back has also allowed me to develop better relationships with myself, family, and friends. Before, I had such a narrow mind frame and would allow my performance to dictate how I treated people that day. Now after a rough day, I am much better at putting it behind me and not dwelling on it.

I have also realized that I need time to just be "still". Practicing yoga, or meditating for five minutes has made a world of a difference in my relationship with myself (yes, that is a thing).

While packing up to go to school this past August, knowing I would be taking a step back from the sport I love, I felt as though I would never ride as well as I did when it consumed my whole life. But I couldn't have been more wrong. I am now going into the show ring with a clear mind and leaving with a smile on my face.

To my surprise, it has been more than me starting to have fun again- I am riding better, and getting more consistent results than I had before. So, to all those athletes out there that fear to take a step back from their own sport, I am here to tell you that it may just be the best thing you can do for your performance and yourself...

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