Who: Jacksonville Jaguars (11-6) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)
What: AFC Divisional round playoff game
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.
Spread: Steelers (-7 1/2) U/O (41 points)
Why to watch:
The above makes it obvious. A chance to meet the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game is at stake, as the Jaguars get set to rematch the Steelers. As you probably know by now, Jacksonville shocked Pittsburgh 30-9 in week five intercepting QB Ben Roethlisberger five times in the game. The build up has included Roethlisberger saying he wants another crack at the Jaguars defense. Well, he’s about to get it. And the Jaguars, who smothered the Bills last week in their wildcard game, are more than ready to attempt to stifle Big Ben and the Steelers. If they do, it’s their first trip to the AFC Title Game since January of 2000, when the lost to the Tennessee Titans 33-14.
LeVeon Bell vs. Jaguars front seven
Despite all the talk about the Jaguars interceptions of Roethlisberger (two of them returned for TDs) in game one, equally impressive was they held Bell to just 93 total yards in October. If Roethlisberger’s top weapon, WR Antonio Brown, is limited with his calf injury, then it will be even more important that Pittsburgh gets Bell going early and often. For all of it’s overall monster accomplishments on defense in 2017 (Sacks, points allowed, takeaways, etc.) their run defense is 21st in yards allowed per game this season. They also are allowing 4.3 yards per rush, which is 26th. So, that’s the challenge up front. Can they stuff the Steelers nearly 1,300 yard rusher, again? If the Jags do, then they are in great shape to win this one.
We laid out the rushing numbers for Bell and the Steelers above. As for the Jaguars, RB Leonard Fournette had 181 yards on 27 carries in game one. Now, 90 of them game at the two minute warning on his electrifying breakaway touchdown run to clinch the win. But up until that time, he had only 91 yards on 26 carries or only 3.5 yards per carry.
And along those lines, here’s the recent disturbing trend for the Jags arguably best offensive weapon in Fournette: He had 21 carries for just 57 yards (2.7 avg.) last week against the Bills. The previous week at the Titans 19 attempts 69 yards (3.6 avg.) and in week 16 at San Francisco 18 carries 48 yards (2.7 avg). So, that’s three straight games without at least 70 yards on the ground and didn’t come close to four yards per tote in any of them. None of that is good news. The Jaguars must get something, themselves on the ground.
The Steelers run defense is pretty solid at 10th on average at 105.8 yards per game.
Talk all you want about QB Blake Bortles not being able to throw it very much or very well. And, he hasn’t. But, the Jaguars want to run and play defense to set up the offense. So, those numbers above must change.
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