AFC capsule

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Jacksonville Jaguars (11-7) at New England Patriots (12-5)

Time: 4 p.m. today, chs. 11, 4

Line: Patriots by 7

Vs. spread: Jaguars 9-9; Patriots 8-9.

Last week: In the conference semifinals, the Jaguars shocked the Broncos in Denver, 30-27, and the Patriots routed the Steelers in Foxboro, Mass., 28-3.

Outlook: This will be the matchup between the teacher (Bill Parcells) and the student (Tom Coughlin). They both say this will be an emotional game. Coughlin has shown quite a bit of intestinal fortitude in the past two playoff games, perhaps because the Jaguars essentially have been playing in a single-elimination situation since Week 12. That hang-loose attitude has worked well for Jacksonville, and it should again in this game. The Jaguars are the type of team that can really give the Patriots trouble. They hang around and hang around, then they lower the boom. They've done it twice in the playoffs to two teams, Buffalo and Denver, who had good run defenses and were capable of scoring points in bunches. Natrone Means has put together two exceptional games in the playoffs, and New England must slow him down. Mark Brunell also presents a problem for New England's defense, because he is a mobile quarterback who isn't afraid to run. The Jaguars' defense will be tested by Patriots QB Drew Bledsoe and WR Terry Glenn. They hooked up on a big play early against Pittsburgh, and the Steelers were never able to recover. RB Curtis Martin, like Means, has been productive, and he helped New England break open last week's game. Martin is a dangerous runner, and if he gets into the secondary he can outrun most defensive backs. Bledsoe will need maximum protection from his offensive line to find his receivers. If he can get it, he'll burn the Jaguars. But Jacksonville is no longer a surprise team.

By the numbers: Jacksonville, in its second season, is youngest team ever to advance to AFC title game. Jaguars have won seven straight, including their last five regular-season contests. Brunell topped 200 yards passing in 15 of past 16 games. Means ranks third in career playoff yards-per-carry with 4.93. Last week's win was Patriots' first in playoffs since 1986, when they advanced to Super Bowl XX. New England coach Bill Parcells has 8-3 January record, including 2-0 in NFC championship games and 2-0 in Super Bowls as coach of the New York Giants. Martin had 14 of his AFC-most 17 touchdowns at Foxboro Stadium. He has scored touchdowns in his last 14 games at home. Jaguars rallied from a 21-0 deficit before falling in overtime in earlier loss to New England. Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin was on Parcells' staff with Giants from 1988-90. Game matches teams with youngest starters of divisional playoff teams -- Patriots (26.3), Jaguars (26.5). Jacksonville defense had 37 sacks this season, compared to its NFL-low 17 in 1995.

Injuries:

JAGUARS: Questionable: C Dave Widell (calf). Probable: LB Ty Hallock (hamstring).

PATRIOTS: Probable: WR Shawn Jefferson (foot).

Pub Date: 1/12/97

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