The 6-3 Pittsburg Steelers head to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars, who are losers of 5 straight. The Jags have lost to the Chiefs, Cowboys, Texans, Eagles, and Colts in their last 5 games. None of those losses are glaring losses to bad teams, but the Jags should be able to win at least a game or 2 from that 5 game stretch. The Jags offense has lacked consistency all year and this defense is just worse than it used to be. Jalen Ramsey isn’t a top 30 CB in the league according to PFF in coverage. The defense has holes and lacks creativity. The Steelers, on the other hand, are winners of their last 5 coming off of a ten-day rest after they crushed the Panthers on Thursday night. This Steelers team seems to be riding high after struggling the first few weeks.
Steelers vs. Jags Head to Head
Last year, the Steelers vs. Jags playoff game was 45-42. Now, we are coming into this game with the Jags’ defense being much, much worse than they were considered at the time and the Jags offense lacking that upside recently. The Jaguars’ defense is a team that is meant to play straight up vs. teams. This team has gotten hurt by teams that can exploit their weaknesses.
In the past, the main things that have hurt the Jags are good slot receiver play, QB mobility that extends plays, and creative formations. This team wants to defend a passing QB that runs 3 WRs, 1 TE, and 1 RB on most plays. This is something you often see with the Steelers, however, they were different last year in this spot. They threw to Vance McDonald, Le’Veon Bell, and Eli Rogers 34 different times in the playoff game. I think that means that the Steelers know that they should use unique game planning to exploit the Jags’ defense. If the Steelers do, in fact, use this kind of gameplan, I can’t imagine the Jags significantly shutting down the Steelers in this game.
Jaguars Hoping Fournette Can Help Them
The Jaguars’ offense has been constantly evolving with the injury news of the Leonard Fournette. This team changes scheme drastically when Fournette is in the game. Last week, Fournette ran the ball 24 times in a game where the Jags trailed the entire game. I wish that the Jags ran a more dynamic offense with Fournette in the backfield, but they really seem like they would rather just be a ball control team if the defense can allow that.
This week, I think the Steelers will again jump out to a lead, but that doesn’t mean that Fournette won’t get touches. What was interesting last week was Fournettes’s 5 catches for 56 yards. For the sake of the Jags offense, I hope this trend continues. Fournette isn’t known as a pass-catching RB, but it’s not that hard to catch passes from the RB position if the team uses you correctly. Fournette should be in for a big game whether or not they are trailing throughout.
The Jaguars’ passing game has been extremely unpredictable recently. They have switched up who seems to be the primary option multiple times, without any real injury to their 3 top WRs. In this game last year, the Jags completed 14 passes. This is likely because they held the lead the entire game last year. If that is the story this year, I have seen nothing from their offense that would suggest that they want to throw more than they did. However, they have been forced to pass more this year without Fournette and while trailing much more as a team. If the Jags are forced to pass this week, Dede Westbrook is the guy that I think shows up in a big way. He has the talent to beat the Steelers’ secondary that I don’t know anyone else on the roster has.
Steelers vs. Jaguars Prediction
This game is going to be very different based on how the early game goes. Especially with Jacksonville’s tendency to become run-heavy if they get the lead, even which team wins the coin flip could determine the total in this game. I have much more confidence in the Steelers’ setting the tone to start the game this week, so give me the Steelers (-5.5).