NFL Divisional Pick: Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers
Jags Defense Tries to Hold Off Pittsburgh’s Balanced Offensive
The third game of the 2018 NFL Divisional Playoffs to be played Sunday, Jan. 14 at 1:05 p.m. E.T. It will feature the AFC South winning Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6 Overall, 4-4 Away) and the AFC North winning Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3 Overall, 6-2 Home) at Heinz Field. Our Jacksonville plays Pittsburgh 2018 AFC Divisional Playoff pick has the Steelers at between -7.0 and -8.0 and the over/under at either 41.0 or 41.5. The Jags won their first playoff game, barely beating the wild card Buffalo Bills 10-3. Pittsburgh, which has not played in this postseason yet due to earning a first-week bye, won their last two games of the season. They beat the Houston Texans 34-6 on Dec. 25 and then took down the Cincinnati Bengals 28-24 on New Year’s Eve.
Jacksonville is averaging a healthy 26.1 PPG. They lead the NFL in rushing yards per game with 144.4. They are 17th in the league with 224.6 passing yards per game. QB Blake Bortles (60.2 COMP%, 21 TDs, 13 INT) hopes to have TE Mercedes Lewis (24 REC, 318 YDs, 13.3 AVG, 5 TDs), who is questionable, on the field today. WRs Keelan Cole and Marqise Lee, who each have three receptions, are essential. Lee, ankle, may not play. Rookie RB Leonard Fournette (268 ATT, 1.040 YDs, 3.9 AVG, 9 TDs) is the team’s primary offensive thrust and needs to have a big game.
The Jags have the top passing defense in the NFL, allowing 169.9 YPG, while their rush D, which is 21st, is giving up 116.3 YPG. Their 16.8 PPG allowed is first in the AFC and second in the league. The Jaguars have 55 sacks, 21 interceptions and 17 forced fumbles with 12 recovered. DEs Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue come to this game with 26.5 total sacks, nine FF, and nine TFL. The secondary is rich and includes corner A.J. Bouye who has six picks and 18 PD.
- Top rushing offense
- Excellent pass defense
- Rush D is vulnerable
In our Jacksonville plays Pittsburgh 2018 AFC Divisional Playoff pick, we note that the Steelers have been good for 273.8 passing yards per game (3rd NFL), 104.2 rushing yards per game (20th NFL) and 25.4 PPG. There’s big news on offense as All-Pro wideout Antonio Brown (101 REC, 1,533 YDs. 15.2 AVG, 9 TDs) is now expected to play. There is concern that his calf may not perform well in the cold weather. But he is expected to be dressed and ready to play. That’s a game-changer. QB Ben Roethlisberger (64.2 COMP%, 28 TDs, 14 INTs) comes to this game with a lot of experience. He’s had a decent season, but has, at times struggled. In addition to Brown, the Steelers have a lot of offensive weapons including WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (58 REC, 15.8 AVG, 7 TDs), TE Jesse James (43 REC, 372 YDs, 3 TDs), and dual-threat LeVeon Bell who has 85 catches for 655 yards and two touchdowns and 321 rushes for 1,291 yards and nine scores.
The seventh-ranked Pittsburgh defense is allowing 19.3 PPG. They are 10th versus the rush as opponents are gaining 105.8 YPG. They are fifth versus the pass giving up 201.1 PPG. Like the Jags, the Steelers have a tough-as-nails D, which has made 56 sacks, grabbed 16 picks, and forced 13 fumbles, recovering six. LB Vince Williams (8 SCKs) and DE Cameron Heyward (12.5 SCKs) are tops at bringing down QBs, while safety Sean Davis is tops in interceptions with three.
- Brown is back but will be be effective?
- Bell needs a big game
- D must step up and stop rush
Three 2018 AFC Divisional Sunday Playoff Takeaways
Our Jacksonville plays Pittsburgh 2018 AFC Divisional Playoff pick includes this trio of takeaways-
- QB edge to Steelers
- Defensive edge to Jags
- Rush attack- even
Our Jacksonville Plays Pittsburgh 2018 AFC Divisional Playoff Pick
It will be about 16 degrees Fahrenheit at game time. That may affect a few things, but of most concern will be how the warm-weather Jags react to the low temps. In week five of the regular season, Jacksonville intercepted Roethlisberger five times, held the Steelers to 70 rushing yards, and beat Pittsburgh 30- 9. But that was three months ago and a lot has changed since then. Over the next 10 games, Roethlisberger tossed a total of just seven picks. One thing we expect is a low-scoring game. We’re going with the under at 41.5. In terms of point spread, our Jacksonville plays Pittsburgh 2018 AFC Divisional Playoff pick is the Jags at +8.0. We think that, at the least, they will keep it tight.