The New England Patriots are just one win away from reaching their second straight Super Bowl, as well as their third in four seasons. To reach the game’s greatest stage once again, they must defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship game this Sunday.
All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski acknowledged on Wednesday that the Jaguars pose the biggest challenge of any opponent the Patriots have faced this season, according to Arun Srinivasan of the Final Score.
“That is a big challenge,” he said during his press conference Wednesday. “They have very talented players on both sides of the ball. Especially on defense, they have many, many great players. It is going to be a big challenge. It is the best team we are facing all year coming up in the AFC Championship Game this weekend. We have to be ready. We have to be prepared. It is going to be a big, tough challenge, for sure.”
Jacksonville possesses arguably the best defense in the league, ranking first against the pass and second in the NFL with 55 sacks. Their secondary is led by their dynamic cornerback duo of All-Pro Jalen Ramsey and Pro Bowler A.J. Bouye.
The Jaguars’ pass rush, led by defensive tackle Calais Campbell, could be the most dangerous threat to New England. The Patriots have struggled in playoff games in the past when the opposition is able to provide consistent pressure on Tom Brady. At the same time, Gronkowski figures to play a major part in the passing game given that he is a huge mismatch for opposing defenders.
Gronkowski has enjoyed tremendous success in the playoffs, as his 10 receiving touchdowns are tied for third all-time behind only Jerry Rice’s 22 and John Stallworth’s 12. He is first among tight ends in that category, and his 835 receiving yards in the postseason moved him past Shannon Sharpe for second place all-time at his position. He will likely pass Dallas Clark’s all-time record of 847 yards on Sunday. Finally, his three career 100-yard receiving games in the postseason are tied for third all-time among tight ends, behind Vernon Davis (four) and Keith Jackson (four).