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Patriots will do all the little things on Sunday

Last weekend, the Jacksonville Jaguars went into Heinz Field as decided underdogs in their AFC Divisional showdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Relying on a playmaking defense and punishing ground attack, the Jaguars churned out an impressive two turnovers and 45 points en route to a stunning defeat of the Steelers in their own backyard.

This Sunday, the opponent is the New England Patriots, another heavy favorite over the upstart Jaguars. New England, which is fresh off a 35-14 trouncing of the overmatched Tennessee Titans, is not Pittsburgh. There won’t be the constant bickering of Ben Roethlisberger in the press about what the coaches will and won’t allow him to do. There won’t be Mike Mitchell exciting the opponent before a game (or overlooking them all week). There will most-certainly not be a star player missing the Saturday walkthrough because he didn’t feel like showing up, and then facing no consequences.

Come the AFC Championship Game, the Patriots will have the singular focus that has made them the most successful team in the modern NFL era. New England has been to seven consecutive conference title games and has reached 12 total with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at the wheel. That doesn’t happen without incredible disciple and focus, something Pittsburgh apparently knows nothing about.

New England won’t be thinking about whether it is going to play the Philadelphia Eagles orMinnesota Vikings in Super Bowl LII. The Patriots won’t care about who gets the credit and what their individual contracts could look like in 2018 and beyond. They aren’t programmed that way and haven’t been since Belichick arrived in 2000, ushering in an era that has included seven Super Bowl appearances and five victories.

When Sunday afternoon rolls around, you won’t see coverage breakdowns and weird play calls on fourth and a foot. You will see Josh McDaniels finding ways to get Rob Gronkowski matched up against a linebacker who wants no part of that assignment. You’ll see Dion Lewis swinging out of the backfield to catch a pass with blockers in front, just like New England drew it up.

You will certainly see Leonard Fournette looking at eight-man fronts the entire game, forcing Blake Bortles to throw the ball outside against Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler. In that vein, Belichick is daring Bortles, one of the league’s most turnover-prone corners, to throw the ball outside the numbers against elite players.

In the AFC Championship Game, you will see why the Patriots are dominant. You will also see why the Steelers are watching this game from home and why despite an incredible roster, they haven’t been to the Super Bowl since the 2010 season.

If Jacksonville wins, it will need to play the perfect game, just like Belichick drew it up.

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