The Pittsburgh Steelers are set to host the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2017 AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs. Kickoff is set for Sunday at 1:05 EST at Heinz Field and will be televised nationally on CBS.
Oddsmakers opens with the Steelers at -7 but that has been bet up to -7.5 in most books. The total is still sitting on the opening number of 41.
Jaguars vs Steelers Vegas Game Preview & Betting Odds
Pittsburgh earned the No. 2 seed in the AFC and with that a first round bye in the playoffs. The biggest question regarding the Steelers was the health of wide out Antonio Brown, who missed the final two games of the regular season with a calf injury he suffered in Week 15 against the Patriots. So far the news has all been positive. Brown practiced with the team on Monday and is listed as probable.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Jaguars kept their dream season alive with a 10-3 win at home over the Bills in Sunday’s Wild Card action. As expected, it was their defense that did most of the heavy lifting in the win. Jacksonville totaled just 230 yards and 15 first downs. None bigger than the 86 yards and 6 first downs that came on the Jaguars loan touchdown drive, which they converted on a 4th and Goal at the 1-yard line.
This will be a rematch from the regular-season, as these two teams played in Pittsburgh back in Week 5. We saw a very similar line for that game, as the Steelers closed as a 7-point favorite with a total of 41.5. It ended in the Jaguars leaving Pittsburgh with a 30-9 win. The defense was the story as it’s been all season, intercepting Ben Roethlisberger 5 times, including two pick-sixes in the 3rd quarter that turned a 7-9 deficit into a 20-9 lead.
NFL Betting Predictions & Free Pick Against the Spread: Jags +7.5
I would have to lean towards taking the points with Jacksonville in this one. As much as I don’t trust Blake Bortles, I think this Jaguars defense is not only good enough to keep this game close, but good enough to propel Jacksonville to the AFC Championship Game.
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It’s not very often you see a team catching more than a touchdown against an opponent they beat by 21-points early on in the season. That’s just shows you how much the public loves this Steelers team and how little respect and trust the public has for these Jaguars. Most are just going to chalk up that win in the regular season as a fluke and say they got lucky with the turnovers.
I’m not saying I expect Jacksonville to intercept Roethlisberger 5 times on Sunday, but I see no reason not to think that the Steelers offense will struggle to move the ball against this defense. Sure Brown is going to play, but just how effective will he be? If he’s not 100% that’s a big deal. Keep in mind he caught 10 passes for 157 yards in the first meeting and Pittsburgh only managed 3 field goals.
I know the run defense for the Jaguars isn’t as good as the secondary and their ability to stop the pass, but they did a pretty good job of limiting Le’Veon Bell in that first meeting. Bell had just 47 yards on 15 attempts. He did catch 10 passes, but for just 46 yards. If they can bottle him up like they did the first time, it’s going to force Roethlisberger to have to throw and chances are he makes another mistake or two.
Another big key here that I think is getting overlooked is the Steelers defense wasn’t the same once they lost Ryan Shazier in that Week 13 game against the Bengals on Monday Night Football. They just didn’t have the same look, as they no longer had that elite guy in the middle who could use his speed to limit big plays both on the ground and through the air. In the final 5 games the Steelers allowed 127.4 rushing yards/game. In the 11 games prior to that they had allowed 91 yards/game.
Jacksonville rushed for 231 yards on 37 attempts (6.2 yards/carry) against the Steeles with Shazier on the field. I just think the Jaguars are going to be able to move the ball here and put up points. With the way the play defense, I think it’s going to be really hard for Pittsburgh to win here in blowout fashion. Give me the Jags +7.5!