Jaguars at Steelers: 2018 NFL Playoffs Odds, Prediction
The last playoff win from the Jaguars franchise came against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008. The Jaguars won 31-29 in Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger was the quarterback for the Steelers, while Marcedes Lewis (tight end) is the only Jaguar still on the team from that season. That is the only previous meeting in the postseason between these two franchises.
While the Jaguars won last weekend, much of the questions they had entering the playoffs remain unanswered. The biggest thing surrounding the team going into their game against Pittsburgh is the play of their quarterback Blake Bortles.
Bortles did not look very accurate at home last weekend. Many fans are blaming the winds for Bortles subpar passing game. However, Bortles is not a consistent quarterback. His best stretch of games in his career came this season (Week 12 to 14). During those three games, Bortles averaged over 300 yards passing, a quarterback rating of 128.6 and a 7-0 TD-INT ratio. Outside of those three games, Bortles was a below-average quarterback this season.
It will take another big performance from the run game if the Jaguars are to advance to their first AFC Championship in 18 years. The Jaguars led the NFL in rushing this season. They picked up a season-high 231 rushing yards against the Steelers in Week 5. Most of the damage came from rookie Leonard Fournette, who rumbled for 181 yards and two TDs.
The defence for the Jaguars looked good last Sunday. However, the Buffalo Bills offence is not on the same level as the Pittsburgh Steelers. This game is a big test for the Jaguars. Many people are now saying the Jaguars defensive production was based on playing low-quality quarterbacks. Also, their defence declined in the final quarter of the season. The Jaguars struggled against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 14 and the San Francisco 49ers in Week 16.
With All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown returning from injury and the bye week to rest Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell, the “Killer B’s” are ready for January football.
Antonio Brown could have been the first wide receiver to win the NFL MVP award, had a calf injury not cost him the last two-and-a-half games of the 2017 season.
Ben Roethlisberger looked shaky at times this season. However, he got things done when the team needed him, finishing the year with a 12-3 record and his first 4000-yard season since 2014.
Le’Veon Bell started the year slow but got going in the second-half of the season. Bell tied a career high with 11 total touchdowns and was just 54 yards short of his second season with 2000 yards from scrimmage. With each player rested and healthy, the Steelers offence should click on Sunday.
Where the Steelers may slip is on the defensive side of the ball. The loss of Ryan Shazier in the middle of the field continues to hurt the Steelers rushing defence. Since the Steelers lost Shazier in Week 13, they allowed 24 points or more in three of their four games. In their first 12 games of the season, the Steelers allowed only the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 5 to score more than 24 points.
Game Preview And Predictions
Although the Jacksonville Jaguars lack playoff experience, their team is constructed in a way that is built for playoff football. With a strong rushing attack, relentless pass rush and ball-hungry secondary, the Jaguars can contend with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers have a tendency to play down to their opponents. The Steelers beat the Browns by three and four points this season, they barely beat the Colts (winning by three), and they lost to the Bears. While this does not mean the Steelers will lose to the Jaguars, it could point towards a close game. In the Steelers 13 wins this season, eight came by less than a touchdown.
The Jaguars were a 3-3 split in losses this season with half by seven or more points, and the other half by less than seven points. Four of their six losses this season came on the road. The Jaguars did dominate the AFC North this season, going 4-0 and outscoring the division 116-30.
In the last meeting between these two teams, the Jaguars had mixed results against the three offensive superstars on Pittsburgh. The Jaguars allowed a season-high 301 passing yards to the Steelers, but they also picked off Ben Roethlisberger a career-high five times.
Le’Veon had a season-high ten receptions against the Jaguars. However, he only totalled 93 yards on 25 touches. The Steelers abandoned the run game as they fell behind by double-digits relatively quickly. Antonio Brown had the best day against the Jaguars. Brown finished with 157 receiving yards on ten catches. Brown’s health will play a significant factor on Sunday.
The Steelers battled tested offence will challenge the Jaguars on Sunday. Even though the Jaguars defence will keep the game competitive, the Steelers offence is more experienced and will use Bell more effectively this Sunday to keep the Jaguars defence off-balance.
The game should be close, and weather may once again be a factor this weekend. The Jaguars on the point spread is the best wager, followed by the Steelers moneyline (which could be parlayed with the New England Patriots moneyline to increase potential winnings). Expect the Jaguars to run the ball, to limit the Steelers, but not get enough from their passing game to win. Predicting a 23-16 or 17-12 win by the Steelers.
The lowest over/under of the weekend is on this game. The Jaguars have scored a total of 20 points in their last two games. The Steelers should see their offence improve with a healthy Antonio Brown. However, the Jaguars allow the second-fewest points this season. Overall, defence and the running game are what will win this game, meaning points will be limited.
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