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2018 NFL Divisional Round Expert Analysis: Steelers vs Jaguars

The most anticipated matchup in the Divisional Round of the playoffs is the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers, which is a rematch of a regular season game between the two teams.


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Pittsburgh Steelers vs Jacksonville Jaguars Predictions

  • When: January 14, 2018, 1:05 PM ET
  • Where: Heinz Field
  • Spread: Steelers -7
  • Total: 41
  • Moneyline: Steelers -330 vs Jaguars +270

Jacksonville Jaguars Analysis

The Jaguars are coming off a 10-3 over the Buffalo Bills in the Wildcard round, and get to play a team they humiliated at home earlier in the season.

Jacksonville won the first meeting 30-9, and put on a defensive clinic, forcing Ben Roethlisberger to throw five interceptions in what was his worst game as a pro.

Two Roethlisberger’s intercepted passes were also returned for touchdowns.

The Steelers defense also didn’t play well against the run and allowed rookie running back Leonard Fournette to rush for a career-high 181 yards and two touchdowns.

After such a dominant win, the Jaguars will be going into this game with a lot of confidence, which they showed this week in the trash talk leading up to the game.

The Jaguars said they are excited to be going up against Roethlisberger again and are hoping to fluster him like they did the first time around.

The Jacksonville defense doesn’t seem to be too worried about the Steelers’ offensive weapons because the first time around Pittsburgh wasn’t able to score more than nine points.

This Jaguars defense is among the most feared in the league at the moment and is ranked second in points allowed and first against the pass.

Headed by MVP candidate Calais Campbell and star cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, the Jaguars defense will be tested by Pittsburgh’s tandem of Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, who will want payback for the first game’s result.

But, Jacksonville will need Fournette to have another big game, so they don’t have to rely on Blake Bortles to help them win the game.

Putting a lid on Fournette and forcing Bortles to throw will probably be a big part of the Steelers strategy. Bortles passed horribly against the Bills last weekend, in fact, acquiring more rushing yards (88) than passing yards (87) in the game.

It’s critical for the Jaguars then to keep the pressure off Bortles to avoid him committing an inordinate amount of errors. Or, perhaps, at least give him a shot at coming up with play-action passes where he’s had more successes than faults.

If they can keep the Steelers defense on the field and produce on the run game, they feel they have a better chance of moving on to the conference championships.

Key Jacksonville Jaguars Betting Trends

  • Jacksonville is 8-3 SU in its last 11 games
  • Jacksonville is 6-19 SU in its last 25 games on the road
  • The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Jacksonville's last 6 games on the road

Pittsburgh Steelers Analysis

The Steelers have been eager to get their hands on the Jaguars since their week 5 loss. Roethlisberger even told reporters last week that he would love to play the Jaguars again in the playoffs.

Clearly, that game is long past and this time around the story could be very different.

The Steelers also got some good news this week when All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown practiced on Monday and Wednesday, indicating he will be ready to go.

Brown has been sidelined with a calf injury since the second quarter of their week 15 loss to the New England Patriots, but still finished as the leading receiver in the league with 1,533 receiving yards despite only playing in 14 games.

With Brown in the lineup, the Jaguars defense will have to make some adjustments to the way they cover the Steelers.

Brown usually commands double teams, but rookie receiver Juju Smith-Schuster has emerged as a great second option, after finishing with 917 yards and 7 touchdowns on 58 catches.

Martavis Bryant is also a deep threat the Jaguars defense has to keep covered to avoid giving up big plays.

Running back Le’Veon Bell is another player the Jaguars have to keep covered because he can burn their defense by running or catching the ball.

Bell managed 25 touches in the first game, with 15 of those being runs. This time around, the Steelers are probably cognizant of the fact that the Jaguars finished 21st in rushing defense with 116.3 yards allowed per game.

Through six losses, Jacksonville allowed an average of 153.3 yards on the ground, so you’ll probably see Bell running the ball more to negate the Jaguars powerful pass rush.

The last time around, Bell was still getting himself back in football shape after holding out during the preseason.

During the game, he only carried the ball 15 times because Roethlisberger threw the ball 55 times. This time around, expect to see Bell touch the ball more.

Key Pittsburgh Steelers Betting Trends

  • Pittsburgh is 1-5 ATS in its last 6 games
  • Pittsburgh is 10-1 SU in its last 11 games
  • The total has gone OVER in 5 of Pittsburgh's last 7 games

Pick and Prediction: The Steelers are favored to win this game by 7 points. The over/under on total points scored is 41. The Steelers have been waiting for a while to get some payback, so I expect them to win this game convincingly. Take Pittsburgh -7. Also, take the under.

 
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