This past week one of the larger narratives that the NFL zeitgeist has been focusing on is the fact that there are three QB’s (out of the four remaining) that have very limited playoff experience, two of which are technically back-ups (in Nick Foles and The Vikings own Case Keenum) and the other of which has had the label of “Bust” thrown his way for a while now. The other remaining QB is non-other than Tom Brady, who has played in the past SEVEN AFC Championships. Brady is the best quarterback in the history of the NFL and he’s playing under the best coach ever, as well, so the fact that he’s matched up against Jacksonville and Blake Bortles feels like Brady is definitely going to end up going for their (new) record of eight Super Bowl appearances (and most likely his sixth ring, again this is according to the national media). However, as they showed in Pittsburgh, the Jags aren’t some pushover and there is a lot more going on with this game than some people realize that all point towards the Jaguars having some advantages that could end up helping them pull yet another playoff upset.
First off, as people who have even flipped right by ESPN and thus had only seen about 1.5 seconds of their coverage, Tom Brady injured his thumb on his throwing hand. He had a collision in practice earlier this week and the injury was bad enough that Brady ended up getting an X-ray, which came back as negative but considering that they thought they should X-ray it, it must’ve been painful enough for Brady that they must’ve thought that he broke his thumb. While I did joke about ESPN’s coverage of Brady, the reality is that while the media is covering the injury, they’re also downplaying the hell out of it because they assume that Brady will be Brady because… Well, he’s Brady! He’s known for his durability and considering the stakes on Sunday, he is going to play. That doesn’t mean, though, that everything is fine. Brady missed practice yesterday and also skipped his media day as well.
To put this in context, Tom Brady has only missed a Thursday practice once in the past five seasons. That occurred last year because of a leg injury and he did play amazingly in that week’s game, however, this injury is a ton more important and impactful. He injured the thumb on his throwing hand and even if it’s not going to be below freezing in New England during the game, the fact that Brady’s thumb probably has a bone bruise could mean great things for the Jaguars (and the Vikings, as well!). The Patriots’ website, Patriots.com, has an article titled “Patriots Wrap Up: Hoyer Read if Needed”. That’s right, Brian Hoyer, the former Cleveland Brown and current back-up to Tom Brady (Now that Jimmy Garoppolo is in San Francisco and giving the entire Bay Area hope (excluding Oakland, that is sadly losing their team to Las Vegas *shudders*)) is being talked about as someone who actually may have to come into the game on Sunday if Brady isn’t able to grip the ball probably.
Brady and the Patriots don’t really have burners at the wide receiver or tight end position(s), outside of Brandin Cooks. They have players that run great routes and a quarterback who is known for making throws into really tight spots. That’s the crux of the New England offense and if Brady isn’t able to do that because of this thumb, it could mean really, really bad things for a team that could really use a win on Sunday as they’ve only won five Super Bowls this century. Now, no one (including the Steelers, apparently) gave the Jaguars a chance to beat the Steelers last weekend. Blake Bortles vs. Ben Roethlisberger? Give me a break!) is giving the Jaguars a chance to beat the Patriots. I do worry about the emotionally draining nature of the Steelers win, as the Jaguars really did seem to deeply hate the Steelers and because of that they celebrated that win like they had won the Super Bowl. Not just the players but the organization and fans, thousands of which showed up to the Jaguars stadium to celebrate once the players returned from Pittsburgh. However, the Jags do have a defense that is arguably better than the Vikings, at least according to people on the television set. Oh, and the one person who stopped Tom Brady (twice) in the Super Bowl, Tom Coughlin, is with the Jaguars now (that’s HUGE).
That defense could give Brady all sorts of issues on Sunday and if he’s unable to make the throws that we/he have become accustomed to because of that injury, it could end up being a long day for him and the Pats. Now, I typically don’t write articles about teams outside of the Vikings (unless it’s an article about how much Green Bay blows), but obviously with the Vikings being one game away from the first Super Bowl in the history of Joe (that’s me!) and seemingly on a crash course with Brady and the Patriots, I felt compelled to write this after watching NFL Network and realizing that Brady’s injury was a lot worse than a lot of the print media was saying. Should the Vikings (knock on all the wood!) end up in the Super Bowl against the Jags, it really would/could be a dream come true as I don’t see any reality in the multiverse where Blake Bortles defeats Case Keenum. That excites me to no end, and also takes my mind off of the NFC Championship, a game that means so much to me that I’m really just terrified at this point. I’m rationally confident but emotionally stuck in fight or flight mode and while I do have a pill or … six for that, it doesn’t seem to be working even at doses that could kill a bull elephant.
Keep in mind, also, that this is a Jaguars team that put up 45 points against the Steelers’ defense last week. Too. Not to get ahead of myself/the situation, but this season seems to have been one of the more cursed in the history of the NFL in terms of injuries and should an injury stop The Patriots in their tracks it’d mean that the Vikings are simply one of the few teams that survived the injury bug. While I can see Packers fans using that as their rationale as to why the Vikings ended up with a ring (and the people of Green Bay ending up with ringworm (again)), beggars can’t be choosers and at this point, I’m down on both knees with my hands in prayer mode. So, Brady will definitely start the game on Sunday and will attempt to power through his thumb injury (while ignoring the fact that whoever ran into him during practice is definitely at the bottom of the Atlantic) and that could be a really good thing for the Jags and the Vikings. Let’s hope that I’m right. For once.