Blake Bortles does not have a great reputation as a starting quarterback in the NFL. For example, Houston Texans’ defensive end Jadeveon Clowney famously called Bortles “trash”. Tennessee Titans’ defensive tackle Jurrell Casey claimed that Bortles “chokes under pressure”. Even Seattle Seahawks’ safety Earl Thomas labeled Bortles as “subpar”.

Does Bortles really deserve all this derision? Perhaps he did coming into the 2017 season. His career record was a dismal 11-34 as he threw 51 interceptions in just 45 starts. In fact, head coach Doug Marrone did not name Bortles as his starter until he won the competition over Chad Henne during preseason.

Bortles Stepped up His Game

However, Bortles has not played like “trash” in 2017. He has actually played very well when matched up against some of the game’s best. While he is not in the same category as Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson, his solid play when up against teams like the Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers helped his squad win those ball games. Instead of a liability, he has been a contributor.

Jacksonville crushed the Baltimore Ravens 44-7 early in the season. This is a Ravens team that finished the season with three shutouts. Late in the season, Jacksonville proved they were for real with a 30-24 win over Seattle. Bortles passed for 275 yards, two touchdowns, and most importantly no interceptions. He made Thomas and the Seahawks’ defense look “subpar.” Those wins enabled the Jaguars to improve from 3-13 in 2016 to a third seed in the AFC playoffs.

In the Wild Card round Bortles struggled in the passing game against the Buffalo Bills. Yet, he won that game for his team by rushing for 88 yards. In the Divisional round, Bortles was outstanding. He flawlessly executed the offensive game plan and consistently made wise decisions with the ball.

Brady Always Has the Advantage

To be fair, Blake Bortles will not be facing Tom Brady. He will be opposing the New England Patriots’ defense. The Patriots almost seem offended when it’s insinuated that Bortles is a poor quarterback. Certainly, there are several “elite” quarterbacks that wish they were headed to Foxborough for the AFC championship game this Sunday. If Bortles wins this game over Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the vaunted Patriots, he will likely shed his draft bust label once and for all.

Brady rarely has a bad day at the office. His career mark speaks for itself. Teams have gotten to him like the New York Giants in the 2008 Super Bowl and the Denver Broncos in the AFC championship game from two seasons ago. But, those situations are few and far between.

The 2015 Super Bowl was the last time Brady faced a top two ranked scoring defense in the playoffs. We remember how well he played that evening against the Seahawks.

In this match-up the Patriots should be able to win because of their running game. Dion Lewis is having a career year. Rex Burkhead and James White are the kind of multi-faceted players that Belichick loves. Bortles should have a strong game, but it probably won’t be enough to dethrone the champions.


Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills