The New England Patriots should go into their Week 4 bye on a high note.
The Jacksonville Jaguars look improved this season under head coach Gus Bradley, but there’s a big difference between beating the Miami Dolphins at home and trying to come out with a win on the road, facing the 2-0 Patriots.
The Patriots are mostly healthy going into Week 3. Ryan Wendell has been ruled out with an illness, but defensive tackle Dominique Easley is expected to play, the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe reported, despite being listed as questionable with a hip injury.
The Jaguars, on the other hand, already listed starting defensive end Andre Branch, cornerback Dwayne Gratz and tight end Julius Thomas out for Sunday’s matchup. Starting defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks and backup running back Denard Robinson are doubtful, while starting safety Johnathan Cyprien, left tackle Luke Joeckel and right guard Brandon Linder are questionable. That shouldn’t help as the Jaguars come in as 14 1/2 point underdogs, per OddsShark.com.
Check out the top matchups to watch:
ROB GRONKOWSKI VS. SERGIO BROWN
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and Jaguars safety Sergio Brown have a long history together. They both came to the Patriots as rookies in 2010 — Gronkowski as a second-round draft pick out of Arizona and Brown as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame.
Brown left for the Indianapolis Colts and broke Gronkowski’s forearm during a fourth-quarter extra point attempt in a game the Patriots won 59-24.
The Patriots tight end famously blocked Brown off the playing field and into a camera man last season in the Patriots’ 42-20 Week 11 win over the Colts. Gronkowski said after the game he “threw him out of the club.”
Brown actually covered Gronkowski well in that game, individually allowing just one catch on one target for 16 yards. Gronk had four catches for 71 yards and a touchdown in that game.
It likely will be more difficult for the Jaguars safety to have success against Gronkowski this season, however, because the big tight end seems to be on another level. He already has 12 catches for 207 yards with two touchdowns.
MALCOLM BUTLER VS. ALLEN ROBINSON
It’s been a tale of two games for Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler this year. He allowed over 100 yards to Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown in Week 1, then he individually blanked Buffalo Bills receivers Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin in Week 2, allowing just one catch — a 32-yard touchdown to Robert Woods.
It’s been the same story for Robinson this year with seven catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns, though six receptions, 155 yards and both scores came last week against the Dolphins.
Brown historically has had more success against bigger receivers, so the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Robinson could be a good matchup for the second-year pro. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles is just 7 of 19 targeting Robinson this season. Butler has allowed 10 completions on 11 attempts for 174 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
SEBASTIAN VOLLMER VS. JARED ODRICK
The Patriots’ best, most consistent offensive lineman will be facing off against the Jaguars’ best defensive lineman. If anyone on the Patriots can neutralize Odrick, it’s Vollmer.
The Patriots have a long history against Odrick, who played with the Miami Dolphins from 2010 to 2014, though he mostly played inside at defensive tackle. The Jaguars deploy Odrick as their strong-side defensive end in their base defense.
Odrick has 11 tackles, two sacks and an interception in eight games against the Patriots. Patriots former left guard Logan Mankins gave up both sacks, which came in Week 8 of the 2013 season.
Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Sep 10, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots strong safety Malcolm Butler (21) during the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports