STEELERS vs. JAGUARS: Updated Odds,Stat Predictions for 2018 AFC Divisional Game
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jagaurs will partake in a rematch of their NFL Week 5 clash on Sunday in the AFC divisional round at Heinz Field.
Although plenty has changed since two of the best teams in the AFC last met, we could witness similar outcomes on Sunday given the talent on both sides of the ball.
After taking the Week 5 win by the Jaguars into account along with a few other numbers, we made a few bold stat predictions for Sunday’s showdown.
Odds: Pittsburgh (-7.5); Over/Under: 41
Jaguars vs. Steelers start time, stream, channel, broadcasters
- Date: Sunday, Jan. 14
- Time: 1:05 p.m. ET
- Location: Heinz Field — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Channel: CBS (check local listings)
- Stream: CBS All Access
- Broadcasters: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
Roethlisberger Will Throw at Least 2 Interceptions
The Jaguars will prove that their defensive performance from Week 5 against the Steelers was no fluke on Sunday by forcing Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger into multiple turnovers.
It would be shocking if Roethlisberger threw five interceptions again versus the Jaguars defense, but he could be susceptible to throwing two picks against a group that is one of the best in the league.
Jacksonville boasts the top passing defense in the NFL and created 33 turnovers, which was second only to the Baltimore Ravens. The Jaguars were also one of two teams to pick off opposing quarterbacks more than 20 times.
Although the matchup for defensive backs Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye against Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster will be difficult, they’ll find a way to jump routes and make Roethlisberger’s afternoon frustrating.
Another multiple-interception performance from Roethlisberger would be rare, as he only turned the ball over more than once after his dreadful date with the Jaguars.
Although there isn’t a direct trend in Roethlisberger’s career pointing toward a dismal showing at home on Sunday, he hasn’t been perfect in the pocket in the postseason.
Roethlisberger has been picked off on 23 occasions in 20 postseason games, with four of those coming last postseason.
If the Jaguars can get pressure on Roethlisberger through their pass rush led by Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue, the Steelers signal caller could end up throwing a bad ball into a crowd that will result in an interception or two.
However, Roethlisberger’s interception total won’t be a total hindrance on Pittsburgh’s success, as it will find a way to finish off the upstart Jags in the fourth quarter.
LeVeon Bell’s 100-Yard Game Will be Difference in Steelers Win
The answer to Roethlisberger’s potential struggles will come from running back LeVeon Bell, who had 357 rushing yards on 65 carries over three games in the postseason a year ago.
The 25-year-old will learn from his Week 5 struggles against the Jaguars in which he gained 47 yards on 15 carries and take advantage of Jacksonville’s aggressive pass rush to break a few big runs.
One of the keys for the Pittsburgh running game will be the implementation of draw plays that take a few seconds to develop. Although it may seem counterproductive against the Jacksonville defensive line, if the Steelers are able to block properly, holes will open up for Bell to cut through for double-digit gains.
Bell is entering the playoffs on the heels of two impressive performances, as he picked up 117 yards on the ground against the New England Patriots in Week 15 and an additional 69 versus the Houston Texans in Week 16.
It would be wise of the Steelers to try and get Bell going early, which if successful, could lead to more production from Roethlisberger with the Jaguars front seven occupied with Bell.
It’s certainly a bold prediction to make, especially after we called for some struggles for Roethlisberger, but Bell reaching the 100-yard mark is possible if everything goes right for Pittsburgh.
Bortles Won’t Turn the Ball Over, but Will Struggle
We’re fine with you mocking us for predicting Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles won’t turn the ball over after saying Roethlisberger will on multiple occasions, but sometimes you have to be crazy to make bold predictions.
Just because he won’t throw an interception or fumble the ball doesn’t mean Bortles won’t struggle against the Steelers defense.
Bortles won’t get a chance to make a momentum-changing mistake because he either won’t have the ball in his hands or the Steelers will get to him before he releases a pass.
With the Jaguars expected to rely on running back Leonard Fournette like they did in Week 5, Bortles will attempt 20 passes at most on Sunday afternoon.
But when he does drop back to pass, he’ll experience problems against a Pittsburgh defense that will be motivated to get the ball back and create a short field that leads to a quick strike from its offense.
As crazy as it may seem with someone who gets criticized often like Bortles, he had eight games during the regular season in which he didn’t throw an interception.
The only difference from those games is Bortles won’t throw close to the average of 251 passing yards he threw for in the contests he didn’t commit a turnover.
Bortles will be lucky to reach 150 yards against a Pittsburgh defense that will focus on Fournette and challenge the 25-year-old quarterback to beat it by himself, which is something he’ll be unable to do.