Three storylines to watch Sunday as the Pats take on the Jaguars in Jacksonville (1 p.m., CBS):
Rebound of all rebounds
The Patriots were just dumped by the hot team in the NFL in the 49ers, but look for them to rebound quite easily against one of the, um, uglier ones this season – the Jaguars. Currently the Patriots are favored to beat the Jags in Jacksonville by 15 points, and honestly Vegas might be a little nice to Jacksonville here. It’s still undetermined whether or not star running back Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) will suit up for the Jags, but even if he does, it shouldn’t be close. The talk of the Patriots purposely losing games to potentially avoid the Steelers is just that – talk. The bottom line is the Patriots feel that they can beat any team in the NFL if they’re on their game, so why would they “avoid” teams? Get to your television sets early, because it won’t be a game for long.
What to make of Ridley
Steven Ridley did the one thing that he shouldn’t – couldn’t – do last Sunday: put the ball on the ground. Ridley fumbled in the third quarter when the Patriots were marching to hopefully make it a 17-10 game. Instead, the fumble led to a Frank Gore touchdown one play later, and the rout was on (temporarily anyways). Ridley got just one more touch the rest of the game, which makes you wonder if New England will shy away from him again as they did at the end of last season and into the postseason. It’s doubtful that Ridley will see a huge reduction in carries, seeing as the Pats don’t have the luxury of BenJarvus Green-Ellis anymore. But Danny Woodhead has proven to be a reliable back, especially when the Patriots elect to pass.
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In terms of net yards, Jacksonville is the 31st ranked offense in the NFL with 3,977. They’ve scored a total of 219 points this year (also ranked 31st), or 287 less points than the Patriots (506 points, 1st in NFL). To make it clear: the Patriots defense should shut down the opposition. After being torched for 41 points to the 49ers (although you can’t pin it all on the defense), look for New England – especially the secondary – to play more like we saw in the few weeks leading up to the Niners game. Jags WR Cecil Shorts has been a pleasant surprise for Jacksonviile, but New England should find ways to limit him.